The worst of times brings out the best in humanity and our teams are demonstrating this. Over the last few months we’ve been responding, adapting and refocusing our work to meet the needs of local people during this Covid-19 crisis.
On 17th March 2020 we suspended our face-to-face services, sent staff/volunteers home, closed our community centre; and have gotten heavily involved in the wider coordination across Battersea and Wandsworth e.g. we’ve helped set up Battersea Coronavirus Angels (we’ve recruited 450 volunteers and supported nearly 500 vulnerable people so far); developed the Big Local SW11 Alliance Covid-19 Grant Fund (£100k); and we’re working with Wandsworth Council and local charities to coordinate a strategic and practical response across the borough.
We’ve adapted our community services to support all our members over the telephone and online (e.g. supporting our most vulnerable elders with daily calls – more below), delivering ESOL (English) classes via Zoom/WhatsApp, supporting our Somali Women’s Group via WhatsApp, hosting a new Corona Homework Club for refugee young people. We’re providing practical and emotional support for all our staff and volunteers working at home.
KLS Elder’s Coronavirus Programme
Our priority over these months has been to reduce the isolation and loneliness of elderly residents in Battersea and across Wandsworth. We’ve done this by providing psycho-social support over the telephone and online to 220+ elders. This is an adaptation of our current services. We’ve set up all our staff so that they can work from home with telephony and IT equipment, as well as training and management needed to do so.
We currently support 223 local elderly Wandsworth residents, and plan to do so for as long as the lockdown lasts and beyond. This number has increased over the weeks as new elders have contacted us for help during this crisis. Our experience Elders team has identified, classified and prioritised the type of support each of our elderly members need (friendship calls/psycho-emotional support/advice & guidance/advocacy and casework/shopping & medicine/financial support/healthcare support); and the frequency of support (daily/twice/once per week contact).
We are currently making 127 telephone/skype/zoom calls each week to the most vulnerable (2,500+ calls and 70 referrals have been made so far during lockdown). Others are receiving a call every other day, once a week etc. depending on what they need. We’re calling this new service ‘KLS Fone Friends’, which is delivered by our staff and new volunteers that we’ve had to recruit and train due to the increasing demand.
- Emotional support – This is crucial during this time as many are scared, lonely, anxious and stressed
- Practical support – We’re trying to keep to the KLS routine that so many of our elders enjoy, so we’re offering our exercise programme over the phone, via YouTube and sending exercise sheets through the post. We’re posting Arts & Crafts packs and hope to exhibit their creations in a local gallery after the lockdown. We’re working with local food groups to provide hot meals. We’re working closely with Battersea Coronavirus Angel volunteers to pick up shopping or prescriptions or just providing a friendly listening ear. Other ideas we’re progressing include: needlepoint tutorials, virtual meals, singing, reminiscent games.
- Advice and casework support – We’re addressing their specific issues by advocating on their behalf or connecting them with the Wandsworth Community Hub, Social Services, Age UK Wandsworth, Citizens Advice etc. for changes in their care packages and financial issues, for example.
Tackling Isolation and Loneliness
Our elders were lonely and isolated before the lockdown. That is why we work with them. This has been further amplified since the Covid-19 crisis. Poor mental health is significantly increasing, with issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, to more full diagnosis. This in turn is exacerbating their existing physical health conditions e.g. heart, COPD, cancer conditions etc. As well as the effects of social isolation and poverty.
We’re continuing to work hard to reduce the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on older people in Battersea by tackling poverty, reducing loneliness and isolation, and improving wellbeing over the coming months – in line with KLS’ mission.
A new Angels befriending service for Battersea
Through working in partnership with the Battersea Coronavirus Angels and others e.g. Big Local SW11, Age UK, the Council etc., we have recognised the need for a befriending service so that we can support more vulnerable and elderly residents in Battersea. We training a dedicated volunteer team in April with the Angels, and have since matched 45 befriending volunteers with local vulnerable residents. We are monitoring the service and will evaluate and refine it accordingly over the coming months. This is one service that may continue after lockdown comes to an end.
We’re continuing to work closely with our elderly members to shape and therefore provide the services that they want now and in the future. We’re anticipating that there could be several phases of easing and tightening the lockdown over the coming months and possibly years. We’re tentatively planning to resume our face-to-face community services from the autumn, but we’ll see. We’re looking to see what role technology will play in our future work, as currently only about 10% of our elders use new technology e.g. skype/zoom, online banking, shopping online etc.
Your support and help on this journey would be much appreciated.
Head of Elders Team
020 7223 2845