Age UK Lancashire: "We don't want to be furloughed. This is what we do."
Age UK Lancashire is a charity committed to supporting older people across the county in order to ensure that they lead as fulfilling a life as possible which, in the current climate of social isolation, lockdown, and the global outbreak of Covid-19, looks a little different to their usual work.
In response to the pandemic, the organisation has consulted Lancashire County Council and taken steps to adapt their myriad services in line with NHS and Public Health England guidelines, rolling out an enhanced range of front-line resources. And while the mantra behind their work remains the same, the execution of their vital services is all about flexibility.
"As a charity, we support older people and they've been identified as a group which is at higher risk so people have found themselves cut-off and isolated," explains Promotions and Fundraising Manager David Ward, 38. "From the start, we were really responsive to that and knew we had a responsibility to do something about it within government guidelines.
"We set up the organisation so we could mobilise people from home, thanks in part to a nice donation of a server and laptops from an IT company, and we've managed to move some people across to the phone lines so we've got more capacity there," David adds. "But we've still got key workers out there on the front line in people's houses and working in hospital aftercare."
With services such as their Day-Time Support and Dementia Community Links project put on hold for the foreseeable, Age UK Lancs has rolled out three new free services: phone support for dementia clients and their carers, Support at Home for the most vulnerable which consists of help with emergency shopping and essential cleaning, and Good Day Calls which provides a daily phone call seven days a week for isolated people.
"For our dementia clients, it's about giving them and their carers support over the phone and making sure they've got someone to speak to and keeping spirits up," says David, who has worked for the charity for six years. "It's about being there for them and making sure they've got everything they need.
"Support at Home just helps maintain a quality of life for people and allows us to be responsive to people's needs as we want to make sure those who are cut-off from society are being supported because this is a scary and anxious time," he adds. "And Good Day Calls offers that comfort knowing someone's at the other end of the phone to chat to and have a open conversation with.
"People's connections to the outside world may have been taken away, so keeping up social interaction is so important for people's mental and physical well-being."
Also on hand to point people in the right direction so they can access other services including referrals to emergency food supplies, benefits, housing options, and health and community care, David says that while the work Age UK Lancs is undertaking during the lockdown is very different from normal, the ethos of helping people as best they can remains.
"Before all this started, our aim was to keep people as independent as possible, making sure they're socially active and - where possible - going out to things like our activity centres so that people can lead good lives," says David, who is from Chorley and normally works in Age UKs HQ in the town. "That's been taken away from a lot of people, so our services now can give people that connection.
"I've never seen anything like this but, on a personal level, it makes you feel proud to being doing a job which is genuinely helping people," he continues. "We don't want to be furloughed, we want to carry on because this is what we do. It's really nice to know that we're helping and were part of a massive nationwide effort to make sure people are okay, which is why I and lot of others chose to work for a charity.
"We're operating as best we can and we're as busy as ever."