Here is an example of how Janet, one of POhWER's Community Engagement Support Workers is supporting clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I am a Community Engagement Support Worker for POhWER Bedfordshire, I have a dual role which combines supporting our team of volunteers and the Volunteer Co-ordinator with that of Community Navigator – I answer calls via our referral line and give information and advice to callers.

When the country went into lockdown on 23rd March 2020 it became apparent that our way of working would change dramatically. The community groups and day centres that a lot of our clients accessed also ceased running, though some provided virtual assistance.

Our first priority was to contact our current clients and former clients who were vulnerable to complete a welfare check and identify if there was anything that we could do to support them. Working with the Volunteer Co-ordinator and the volunteering team we have so far completed over 1200 contacts and identified clients who we thought might be in the vulnerable category. Most people were pleased that we had contacted them and we identified some who were clearly struggling and were grateful for our call; one such person was Steve.*

Steve had been supported by one of our volunteers 18 months earlier. She started by helping him with an issue he had been facing with his mental health and then realised that he was lonely. She made suggestions of ways he could meet people and went with him on his first visit to groups that he thought he might like to join.

When I initially spoke to Steve he said that “everything had stopped”. Some of the groups he’d been going to offered online meetings, but Steve doesn't have a computer or tablet or access to the internet at home. Also he is dyslexic and finds it hard to cope with technology. Steve was feeling completely cut off and isolated; I was the first person he had spoken to in two days. I made sure he was OK for food and told him about the MIND Crisis Café which operates from 5pm – 11pm, Tuesdays to Fridays. I explained that he could call the café and chat to a mental health professional. I agreed to text him the number and call him in a couple of days.

When I called Steve as promised he’d called the Crisis Café and told me that he felt better after chatting to them and it was reassuring that they were there if needed. He said he would never have known about them if I hadn’t told him. I made sure he was OK for food and that he had enough medication and that he was able to get any future prescriptions. I asked if he would like me to call again and he said he would.

Steve and I have spoken every week since then, he said that he looks forward to our chats. We have a brief discussion about the current Covid situation and then move on to all sorts of topics. I always talk about what food I’ve been eating as a way to make sure that he’s eating and looking after himself. We also talk about the walks we go on; he has a dog and takes her out every day so I know he’s getting some fresh air and exercise. We’ll jokingly say “so what are you doing this weekend?” or “what have you done this week?”
I know that in a time where people are doing selfless tasks and sacrificing so much I have only done a very small thing – a 30 minute phone call once a week, but to Steve just hearing someone’s voice has made an enormous difference to his wellbeing and support with his isolation.

Janet