Before Covid-19, a typical day for the Outreach team could look like anything - from talking with older patients in a GP surgery who are waiting for their Flu jab (always armed with plenty of leaflets!), to hanging out with younger neighbours at their workplace volunteering fairs to spread the word about our programmes. This was how we built up our network of older and younger neighbours, by going out and about in Tower Hamlets and Hackney and striking up organic conversations with people, and encouraging them to get to know their fellow neighbours. It’s also how we met older neighbours who could do with a bit of extra support - be it signposting, referrals, or accessing information and advice about a challenge they were facing.
When lockdowns were implemented, our outreach work went indoors along with the majority of the country, and we weren’t able to visit those community spaces in-person. And while we miss meeting people face-to-face, we’ve been excited by new ways of reaching the east London community from afar. We’ve held dial-in Social Clubs with a GP surgery in Tower Hamlets, spoken to older people in Hackney through their television screens using Sparko, helped with 1-2-1 tech support for those interested in getting online, and checked in more regularly with those without internet over the phone for a friendly chat.
Over the last 6 months, we have:
Made over 100 re-engagement calls, to check in on those older neighbours we’ve not seen or heard from in a while.
Made a further 126 check-in calls with older neighbours, to see how they are and see if they need any help with anything.
Welcomed 38 older neighbours to our network, so they can meet new friends in east London.
Held our first live Zoom inductions to inspire younger neighbours to get involved, welcoming 26 new volunteers in 2021 so far.
Had over 50 meetings with other community partners and organisations, to strengthen partnership working and referral pathways. In the last 6 months we made 71 referrals to these partners, and received 49 referrals from them.
Completed 159 interventions to help out our older neighbours in tricky spots.
(A Sparko session in action)
What’s in an intervention?
We know from experience and from speaking with our older neighbours, that it can be difficult to make new friendships when there are other things going on which are causing worry. For this reason, as well as introducing our social programmes, we work with older neighbours to find local advice, services and information to support them in overcoming barriers to connection.
Interventions vary greatly from person to person, depending on what they need support with - we’ve helped older neighbours apply for Dial-a-Ride and Taxicards, to remove transport-related barriers from doing what they love, and we’ve also supported older neighbours who are not able to do their normal grocery shopping or pick up their prescriptions.
Interventions can also be connecting older neighbours to Adult Social Care, to mental health support and to free legal and housing advice. Some interventions we carry out involve applying for large grants for transformative changes in the home, and in the last 6 months we successfully applied for grants to help older neighbours pay for new carpeting in their flat to keep them warmer, and for a new cooker so another neighbour can prepare food safely.
"My cooker is being delivered today. I can't tell you how grateful I am, thank you for all of your help. This call has really made my day".
Whether our older neighbours are ready to get back to face-to-face activities and visits, or whether they’re taking things at their own pace, our Outreach programme will continue to be there for all of our older neighbours to support them with challenges that may come up.
If you know someone 65+ who could do with a friendly chat with the Outreach team, you can refer them over to us, or give us a call on 0207 118 4949 (Option 3).
Posted by Sasha Khan on Friday 19th March 2021
Sasha is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at East London Cares, reaching older and younger neighbours and connecting them to our Social Clubs, Love Your Neighbour programme and Winter Wellbeing project. Previously Sasha has worked at Age UK and Coram, and volunteered at our sibling charity North London Cares.