The lockdown has been a challenge for many, and we are no exception. We are a transport charity that tackles social isolation. Therefore, social distancing and the shutting of the economy has been a challenge to how we operate. Yet, we have embraced this challenge and sought to continue tackling social isolation. This is an update of the three main ways we have adapted our services face the challenge. They are:
Working with Community Organisations.
Like many organisations, we have had to pause or adjust our usual services. Yet we redeployed our resources to help the most vulnerable people in our community. To do this, we have been working with other organisations to deliver essential goods to vulnerable households.
The lockdown and weeks running up to it saw many of us struggle to get our hands-on essentials. Shopping shelves were becoming increasingly bare, and online supermarket delivery slots were like gold dust. This was a challenge for me and many others who are fully fit and able. These challenges hit our users, especially hard. Our users are part of the vulnerable group advised by the government to stay home. This meant that for many getting essential items themselves was an insurmountable challenge. This has resulted in some of our users going long periods going without any new food. One of our users went a whole month without any shopping due to the lockdown.
With more of our resources being available, we have been able to deploy our minibuses and drivers to help the community. We have been working with several community organisations to ensure vulnerable households get essential goods. We are proud to be providing minibuses and drivers to help Kensington and Chelsea Social Council, AgeUK TFL and North Paddington Food Bank. We have worked hard with them to help as many vulnerable households as possible. Through these community partnerships, we have been able to help over 1000 households a week.
We have not only been delivering food parcels. Working with Kensington and Chelsea Social Council, Bay 20, AgeUK K&C and the Almanaar Centre, we have been supplying ready meals to households that can’t cook for themselves due to health and/or disabilities.
We are proud to be working with so many organisations to help the community during the lockdown. We will continue to do so as long as our users need food drops.
Calling our Users during Lockdown
As an organisation, we are used to receiving more calls than giving them. The lockdown has put this in reverse. As demand for our usual services has dropped, we have adapted to calling our users to enquire about their welfare. As our users are part of the vulnerable group classed by the government, they are facing increasing isolation. Many of our users have no family or friends to talk to. This isolation and lack of social interaction are bad for their health.
Our front office staff Yousra and Purvita have been working hard to call our users to ensure they are receiving enough food and that they are okay. In their calls, they have found that because of the lockdown, some users have gone a week or two weeks without new food and were having to freeze most of the food they had.
One case that Yousra reported on was of a lady who is over 90 years old. She could only go to the corner shop so was living on a very limited range of food. Thankfully, through getting in touch with her, we were able to refer to North Paddington Food Bank. As a result, she was able to get a large food parcel as well as some entertainment.
We have not only been ensuring that our users are getting enough food. According to Yousra some of the calls she has made have been 20 mins or longer. These people may not have needed food parcels but needed some social interaction. They lack friends or family to talk to. Their social isolation has only been compounded by this lockdown that has cut off the little social interaction they had before. We are happy that calls can help them and that we have been able to adapt to continue our mission of tackling social isolation.
Purvita, one of our Senior Coordinators, has been phoning certain users more regularly as well to help reduce their isolation. One user, she phoned reported to us that she felt extremely lonely and had no one to talk to. As a result, we are trying to call her weekly for a chat and to help alleviate her loneliness. We have also been referring them to more dedicated helplines for the elderly. These helplines are there to help older people with advice, support services or just a general chatline.
Adapting our Shopper Service for Lockdown
Before the lockdown, our shopper service would take users to a designated supermarket on a designated day. This allowed us to maximise the number of people going to the same shop, thus being more efficient. However, if a user could not do the set day for a supermarket, they would not be able to visit that supermarket that week. This was due to the limited number of busses and drivers we have.
However, with the lockdown in place, we have implemented social distancing on our buses. We are only taking one user and one carer from the same household. Though, as many services are paused, we have been able to be more flexible for our users. If users are unable to do a set day, our coordinators are working hard to find a slot where we can take them to their preferred shop. In addition to this, we have also expanded the number of shops that we are delivering them to. They can request to go to any local shop, and we are working hard to find the time where they can go.
These changes may only be small, but they have been significant. We have seen more users use our shopper service than before the lockdown. At points, we have seen 70 users a week taking advantage of the new flexibility of the shopper service. In addition, we have added 17 new users to our shopper service. While not confirmed, we believe that our users want to keep their independence and be able to shop for themselves. If this is the case, we are proud to help them maintain their independence as it helps counter social isolation and loneliness. Going forward, we will look to maintain this new flexibility so that we can help as many older adults as possible keep their independence.
This pandemic and lockdown have been a challenge for us and many other organisations. Yet, we are proud that we have been able to adapt our services to help the community. Working with other organisations, we have been able to help vulnerable users who were in desperate need of food and essentials.
The lockdown has further isolated some of our users. We are glad that we can help relieve some of this isolation. Being able to call users and just chat with them for a while may seem insignificant. Yet, for many of our users, it may be the only interaction they have in the day or week. We are glad that we can provide this to help combat their loneliness.
Finally, the new flexibility of our shopper service is allowing us to help more users than before. As the lockdown is slowly wound down and more of the economy opens. We will seek to maintain this flexibility for our users so we can help as many as possible.
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