In this time of uncertainty, people are anxious about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. They need somewhere to turn to for information, reassurance and support. Thankfully, the Age UK Advice Line is here to offer expert advice and people are flooding to it.
There has been a huge rise in calls – reaching an astonishing 88% increase at the height of concern – but what are the problems people are coming to the advice line with?
Someone to turn to
Lines open at 8am with trained advisors waiting to help a range of people calling worried about themselves, their family and their friends. Peta, a Level 1 adviser told us about a recent call.
“Fay called in tears, looking for advice for her friend. Her friend can’t go out for shopping as she has underlying medical conditions, and Fay is desperate to help her.
Like Fay, many of the recent callers are having issues with food shopping and accessing supermarkets. I am able to let them know about the different options of support available to them, and I put them in contact with their local Age UK charities who are providing on-the-ground services. A number of other organisations are also providing practical support, for example the British Red Cross, Royal Voluntary Service and The Trussell Trust, whom I am able to signpost callers to.”
A difficult time
Many of the calls coming in are heart breaking, with family very concerned about how to provide care for their loved ones when they are unable to visit.
"A female caller rang concerned for her brother, in his 70s, who has a fracture, dementia, and difficulty with his sight," Peta shares. "He’s usually looked after by his son and daughter-in-law but they’re self-isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms. He’s been trying to cope alone for 3 weeks without carers and hasn’t been able to shower. His sister also worries that he’s had some falls and wonders whether he’s taking his medication."
Supporting people like this through these incredibly hard situations is why the Age UK Advice Line is so important. The support often also goes further than the call. Issues and problems raised on the advice line, like the awful difficulties people are having with care, are raised by Age UK nationally with the Government and other decision makers to improve policy.
Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year
A free, confidential national phone service for older people, their families, friends, carers and professionals. Our team is on hand give you information that's reliable and up to date, and help you access the advice you need.
Getting the right advice
The Age UK Advice Line team is split into two key divisions, Level 1 and Level 2, staffed by trained advisers. Level 1, where Peta works, deal with the majority of the basic coronavirus enquiries, providing advice on issues such as how to get help with shopping, and how to support someone more vulnerable at this time.
Level 2 are a team of specialist advisers, focusing on issues such as health and social care, and benefit entitlements. They help callers who need more specific advice, often regarding complex situations and calls can last up to an hour.
For instance, one of our level 2 advisers recently answered a call from Nick, in his 70s, from Yorkshire, who is having trouble paying a council tax bill. He’s living in sheltered accommodation and is on pension credit, and he can’t pay a bill which was originally waived but has now been taken up again by the local council. Our adviser can take the time to discuss Nick's issues in detail and work out the best ways to help.
Making a difference
Peta says about working on the advice line: “Every day I get to support so many older people by providing information and advice on everything from benefits, to social care, wills, power of attorney, and how to become more involved in the community and lead a less lonely existence.
"Age UK’s work on the advice line has been focused on helping people through the coronavirus pandemic, which has been challenging for everyone and we’ve had a huge influx of calls.
“But even now, in these very difficult times, I believe we can be hopeful about the future. We all have a part to play, and Age UK is determined to be there for the older people who need us the most.”
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Demand for our vital services is increasing rapidly. Please help us be there for older people who desperately need us during this crisis.