Welcome to East London Cares. As a young organisation tackling some big challenges we’re so inspired to see people joining our network and rolling up their sleeves to hang out with and help their older neighbours – and get plenty in return. We’re very pleased to have you on board and look forward to getting to know you in the coming weeks and months.
Kicking off in 2019, East London Cares is a community network of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another in this rapidly changing part of our city. We focus on those two groups because while they can have so many stories of love and loss, hope and heartbreak, mischief and misadventure to share, they're also amongst the loneliest groups in London.
We try to make our programmes as accessible as possible. Many occur during evenings and weekends, and we do not require you to commit to volunteering for weeks at a time unless you want to. We’ve also eliminated a lot of the paperwork, so we don’t require you to be CRB/DBS checked unless you want to support an individual through our “Love Your Neighbour” programme or by becoming an “East London Cares Organiser”. That means you can start straight away.
In turn, we'll ask our volunteers to stay in regular contact with East London Cares staff by phone and email so that we can plan activities and interactions to make them the very best they can be – and to ensure they are always improving the lives of our older neighbours. We also ask people to talk to us regularly so that we can build a genuine social network flexible to changing needs.
That means we can be agile to your needs and the needs of our older neighbours over time – but once you’ve committed to an activity, we’ll expect you to be there.
As you first get involved in East London Cares' network, you’re likely to volunteer under our Social Clubs programme. This programme will offer local younger and older people the chance to get out, to interact, and to share new experiences, skills and laughter in myriad community locations from Bethnal Green to Bow, Shoreditch to Stoke Newington. These clubs might hook on one of the following activities:
How many people are at each social club?
This varies from club to club. Some of our social clubs are deliberately smaller to attract your less outgoing older neighbours: so there’ll be 5-10 people. While we're newer, you can expect clubs to be no bigger than 15 people, but as we grow, there will be between 20-40 people for you to get to know at our social clubs.
As a volunteer, what’s my role at a social club?
Your main responsibility is to chat with your older neighbours! At every social club there will be an East London Cares staff member or Volunteer Organiser who may ask you to help make tea or welcome people as they arrive, but we like to stress that the real value for all participants is in the interactions you’ll have, the conversations you’ll enjoy, and the benefit everyone gains from those connections.
The activities are there to attract people along, but the point of a quiz night, for example, is not to win – as with all our activities, it’s way of getting people chatting, letting loose and feeling party of a community.
Tips to get the most out of social clubs
What do I need to bring with me?
Just yourself and your best conversation starters!
How do I sign up to social clubs?
Once you’ve been to one of our volunteer inductions, we will send you a link via email to sign up to the social clubs for the following month. The link will be unique to you, and you'll need to input your date of birth to access the list of events. You simply need to book online which clubs you'd like to go along to. Places for social clubs are allocated on a first come, first served basis, and some of the events fill up quickly, so do get back to us as soon as you can.
It’s also worth noting that our emails often end up in junk – we’re working on it – so please do check your junk folder if you haven’t heard from us.
Can I turn up late to a social club so I can get there after work?
Lots of our volunteers work long hours and aren’t able to leave work in time to get to a social club at its starting time. In these cases, we ask our volunteers either to:
1) Ask their employer if they’re able to leave work a bit early (and potentially make up the time somewhere else) so they can fit in their volunteering commitment, OR:
2) Attend one of our weekend social clubs.
Please don’t sign up to a club if you know it won’t be possible to make it there on-time or you’ll need to leave early – this can be disruptive. It’s important you’re there from the beginning to the end to make sure your older neighbours all have someone to talk to, and so we can fit all of the activities into what can be fairly tight timings.
Can I drop out if something comes up?
We work really hard to ensure every older neighbour has a younger neighbour to speak to at our events: volunteers dropping out after signing up can make this tricky. Some of our social clubs are also over-subscribed, so by signing up and then dropping out last minute, you may be depriving another volunteer of a place.
For this reason we ask you only to sign up to social clubs that you’re certain you can make it along to. If you know that work is getting busy and it’s likely you’ll have to stay late at work for few weeks, we’d ask you not to sign up for social clubs during that busy period.
It goes without saying that if you’re unwell, make sure to look after yourself and stay home. We would however be really grateful if you could let us know in the morning (via email/phone) if you’re off work, so we can try and find another volunteer to fill your space.
Can I bring a friend or family member with me?
If a friend or relative wants to volunteer, they’ll need to attend a volunteer induction before joining you at a social club. They can sign up here.
If they’re over 65, please ask their permission to pass on their contact details, and we’ll give them a call, tell them more about East London Cares, and encourage them to sign up to some social clubs.
Social media and photos
We take lots of pictures at our social clubs. We share the images on social media and occasionally use them in our leaflets to showcase the joy of interacting with neighbours of different ages.
If you don’t want your photo taken, please speak to the member of staff or Volunteer Organiser present at the beginning of the social club you’re attending,
Can I swap contact details with an older neighbour?
We ask you to keep your friendships inside the social clubs, and to refrain from sharing contact details with the older neighbours you meet at our events. This is to ensure everyone’s safety – neither the volunteers or older people attending social clubs have DBS (criminal records) checks.
If an older neighbour asks to swap contact details with you, please explain that you’ve been asked by the East London Cares team not to give them out or take other people’s down, but that you’d love to see and spend time with them at another social club soon.
Can I meet up with an older neighbour outside of a social club?
If you really hit it off with an older neighbour at a social club, and would like to spend time one-to-one on a regular basis, this may be possible through our Love Your Neighbour programme.
What should I do if an older neighbour asks if I can walk home with them?
If an older neighbour asks if you can walk home with them, that’s a lovely sign that they’ve been enjoying your company, but please don’t feel any pressure to do so. Feel free to politely decline or explain that you need to head to another engagement. If it’s not out of your way and you’re happy to walk home with them, let the team member leading the social club know that you’re planning on doing this, and please don’t go inside their home – even if it means declining a good brew.
If an older neighbour says or does something that I disagree with or makes me feel uncomfortable at a social club, what should I do?
As with any situation where someone says something that you disagree with, feel free to either politely state why you don’t agree, or move the conversation onto another topic.
If someone says something that you think is inappropriate, offensive or that you find uncomfortable, please let the present member of staff or Volunteer Organiser know at an appropriate moment or as soon as you feel necessary.
What should I do if someone shares information about their circumstances which worries me?
As you build strong relationships with your older neighbours at social clubs, from time to time they might open up to you about challenges they’re facing. Your empathy and listening ear will be a great comfort, but in some cases, they may need extra support – for example with housing, finance, self-care or bereavement. In these cases, please ask the older neighbour if they’re happy to share the information with a member of the East London Cares team who will be able to signpost them to an appropriate and trusted service.
If an older neighbour shares something with you which gives you reason to feel they are at risk of abuse or neglect, or are at risk of other serious harm please do not hesitate to tell a member of the East London Cares team. If this is the case, you don’t need to ask for the permission of your older neighbour to share your concerns.
If I'm struggling to find the time to get to social clubs, how else can I help my older neighbours?
Fundraising is a great way to make a difference to your older neighbours when you are struggling to find the time to join our Social Clubs. From taking on a challenge, to setting up a monthly donation, to joining one of our events – there’s dozens of creative ways you can support your older neighbours, at times that will work with your schedule.
Get in touch via our Contact page for more details!
What’s a Volunteer Organiser?
We train a handful of our most committed volunteers to become Volunteer Organisers: they take on extra responsibility and run their own social clubs, without East London Cares' staff present. This plays a big part in tackling isolation and loneliness: reaching new areas, supporting older neighbours we’ve not yet met, and adding more variety to our programme of events. In return, our Volunteer Organisers have the opportunity to form deeper relationships with their older neighbours and fellow volunteers, and we give them all of the training, tools and support they need to run activities they’re really proud of.
I have skills to offer at a social club! Who should I contact?
Whether you’re a yoga teacher, musician, photographer, jive expert or craft extraordinaire, we’d love to hear from you if you have skills you’d like to share at a social club. Our volunteers’ skills and generosity help us to keep our programme diverse. Get in touch via our Contact page if you’d like to lead a session.
Once you have been volunteering with East London Cares for a while through our “Social Clubs” programme you may like to participate in our “Love Your Neighbour” programme as well. This is where we match individual volunteers to individual older neighbours who are often housebound or otherwise isolated, so that you can offer a little practical support around the house, or just a little companionship and company to someone who needs a friend.
Our older neighbours who we engage through the “Love Your Neighbour” programme may be a little more frail or vulnerable than those who join our “Social Clubs”. We therefore require a little more commitment from volunteers who would like to support someone in this way. In particular, we need a DBS check before we can leave you alone with one of your neighbours. Although it takes a little back- and-forth and a few documents we can normally confirm a DBS check within two weeks, and we can still make an introduction to someone who we may think is a good fit for you in the meantime. We’ll do this as a team so it’s a nice informal introduction.
In addition, we need Love Your Neighbour volunteers to make a commitment, if you are willing to, to see your new friend once a week. Once a month you'll need to let us know the dates and times of your visits to your older neighbour that month, know, and how they're getting on.
If you'd like to know more about Love Your Neighbour, get in touch via our Contact page.
We train some of our most committed volunteers to be “Organisers”. This is a special position that offers volunteers who want to give more the chance to step even closer inside the East London Cares family – to be trained to run events under the East London Cares banner as “group leaders” themselves, to set up their own activities, to administer parts of our database in order to mobilise volunteers directly, and to ensure events are run smoothly – five times a year or more (whatever you can give).
In return, we will ensure our Organisers have all the tools and contacts they need to run successful events.
If you would like to train to become an Organiser please get in touch via our Contact page.
What East London Cares does, and the issues we’re trying to tackle, are complicated. As with every walk of life some of our work may contain risks. Although we have developed a robust risk assessment and policy framework to ensure that, where possible, all potentially harmful situations are avoided, mitigated or managed, we cannot avoid every eventuality – and you are ultimately individually responsible for your own behaviour, possessions, health and safety.
To guide you in case of a serious health emergency, please see the First Aid basics at the end of this Volunteer Handbook – and remember: if someone is in trouble please call the emergency services immediately.
The need for First Aid is rare. However, given the people we work with, we need to know how to react if an emergency may arise. East London Cares' core staff are all Emergency First Trained as part of their first month induction on the team. But so that you, as a volunteer, are aware of how you can help please consider the following in case of emergency.
THE THREE Cs.
CARING FOR AN UNCONSCIOUS PERSON
TREATING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS