Croydon Voluntary Action

Croydon’s COVID-19 Community Response

Role: Karen Chillman - Head of Volunteering Date: Oct. 2020

At the start of lockdown, Croydon Council reached out to Croydon Voluntary Action to help support vulnerable adults who needed support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, a cross-sector partnership was set-up, including the local authority, NHS Link Workers, the VCSE and mutual aid groups across Croydon.

The aim was to provide community-based care and support to vulnerable adults, including shielded and non-shielded individuals.

"We, at Croydon Voluntary Action, are playing a lead role in helping to co-ordinate the community response and support."

Our offices became a hub of activity, centrally co-ordinating food deliveries and food parcels.

We also started receiving lists of vulnerable adults from the local authority via spreadsheets, whilst carrying on receiving referrals from multiple sources too – such as the Council COVID-19 helpline, Age UK, and Social Prescribing Link Workers.

Working in partnership & sharing data

Soon we found that keeping track of things was becoming a nightmare, so we worked with our digital providers to put in place a case management and referral system that all the partners could use.

It’s important when working with partners that everybody can quickly and easily access and share information, and refer clients across services. I also need to be able to track and co-ordinate services we’re providing on the ground.

Now we have a system that supports every part of our service. We provide regular update reports to the local authority on all our activity managed across the partnership. Everybody has a responsibility to update their records, so we can clearly see how many of clients have been supported and the outcomes of referrals.

Introducing Croydon’s ‘Check, Chat & Connect’ service

Lots of people were being referred to us who were lonely and socially isolated due to shielding, a disability or illness, or their personal circumstances.

We recruited and trained volunteers to provide telephone support to these clients. We now have around 100 volunteers supporting 150 clients – or befriendees, as we like to call them – with some volunteers supporting up to three different clients each week.

Our volunteers phone these people each week, have a chat and make sure they’re OK, and link them in with additional support if they need it. All our volunteers have undergone DBS checks and safeguarding training, and we provide ongoing support to them to keep them engaged.

Our volunteers also update our database to record a client’s support needs, which helps us to respond quickly.  They receive SMS reminders of appointments they’ve got coming up and can login and update their own tasks and activity. This has been a godsend!

And because it’s linked with our directory of community services our volunteers can also refer people on to other quality assured support services through the system if they need to.

"We know our service is making a difference. It’s about the wrap-around care we can provide by bringing people together to work with an individual or family."

We had a client who was a frequent caller to GP and emergency services, although he didn’t have any particular health issues – he was just very lonely.

We arranged food deliveries for him, and matched him with three volunteers who now call him each week to have a chat with him. We discovered he likes puzzles, so during lockdown our volunteers delivered some puzzle books to his home to keep him busy.

Now he’s starting to talk about going for a walk to his corner shop – which is a huge breakthrough for him as he hasn’t been outside of his house for two years!

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