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The last year

Published on 30 April 2021 10:45 AM

The last year has been incredibly challenging for many people and there is no doubt that older people have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic with many requiring additional support and reassurance in some very testing times.  Which is why we're so proud of our staff and volunteer teams who have continued to provide this support whilst themselves dealing with their own challenges, having to adapt to different ways of working and providing support in different ways.  

As well as continuing to offer our usual services, we soon became aware that it was increasingly the emotional support that older people so desperately needed.  Our amazing volunteers quickly stepped up to provide reassurance calls to over 450 older people on a weekly basis.  And we enhanced this support by sending printed activity newsletters to help keep people interested and motivated as popping to the shop to pick up the daily paper was no longer an option for the vulnerable.   

Whilst the reassurance calls have now stopped as things are starting to ease and people are becoming more confident, our volunteer Telephone Befrienders continue to call their regular clients from home on a weekly basis.  

We also had an amazing team of volunteers who transitioned from visiting people at home to help with benefits form filling to providing this support over the phone.  Collectively, they have helped older people access over £1.8m in unclaimed benefits.  In addition, our office-based Information and Advice staff and volunteers had 26,856 contacts with or on behalf of older people through telephone or email conversations to reassure or resolve an issue  

2020 also saw us launch our new Meals+ service, not in response to the pandemic but planned.  From April 2020 to March 2021, we delivered over 31,000 hot meals to older people across Wiltshire and Swindon and beyond.    

Our Fitness & Friendship service sadly had to suspend their popular exercise clubs but the staff and volunteers kept in contact with all the members by email and phone.  They have recently established an online Zoom club and are looking forward to being able to meet face to face once again.  

Talking of Zoom, the topic of digital exclusion came to the fore in 2020 with many older people unable to access online support or services.  This led us to set up our Click and Connect project in November 2020 in partnership with AbilityNet and Wiltshire Sight and whilst numbers of people helped are modest, feedback from those helped is overwhelmingly positive.  

Now, as the restrictions are starting to lift and the pandemic is more under control, we are looking forward to resuming our more usual service delivery whilst taking foward the positive learnings from the last 12 months.