As we approach the anniversary of six months of lockdown, it can feel like we’ve come an incredibly long way and at the same time it can feel like we’re going nowhere at all. On the 13th of March, ahead of the Government’s own lockdown, The Cares Family made the difficult decision to suspend all face-to-face programmes in response to the worsening coronavirus outbreak. We knew that this was the right thing to do to protect our neighbours, our communities, and our colleagues. However, the timing of this suspension also meant a swift close to our second Winter Wellbeing project, which I had been working on since October 2019. This drastic change, and subsequent diving from one project into another, was quite a thing to adapt to - but our team has risen to the challenge.
Almost overnight, our programmes - as we knew them - all stopped. We could no longer do intensive work physically in communities, and both our vibrant face-to-face Social Clubs and our one-to-one friendship matching programme Love Your Neighbour were suspended. Out of nowhere the exciting, tenacious, loud and forever proud city of Liverpool stood still. Fast forward almost six months, and collectively we are all busy adapting to the ‘new kind of normal’: a normal that includes social distancing, face masks and - for some - an even deeper feeling of social isolation.
But there’s something in this city that never stands still, a deep human spirit. Even in such a disconnecting time we’ve been able to see wonderful stories of community emerging. Despite the challenges, connections are still being made, and acts of kindness and love are still occurring - this I know for sure.
Arguably, the work that Liverpool Cares does is more important than ever at the moment. We have worked solidly during this pandemic, offering support to the 503 older neighbours already in our network, whilst welcoming and supporting 114 new neighbours- referred to us through our many fantastic community partners across Liverpool.
We wouldn’t have been able to do this important work without the amazing support of other local organisations across the city. For example, throughout April the incredible team at The Little Shoe helped us to deliver warm meals and vital daily essentials to our older neighbours. This relationship not only provided our neighbours with much-needed practical help (and delicious home cooked food!), but it also helped us to forge new and deeper connections with our local communities. Since March we’ve also been regularly referring our older neighbours to GoodGym, who have a veritable army of runners across the city, helping over 65’s with practical tasks such as weekly shops and medical supply deliveries. Good work GoodGym - we salute you all!
Our emergency response work: Virtual Social Clubs; Phone a Friend; and varied Outreach support, has sought to keep our younger and older neighbours connected to one another and their communities during this incredibly tough time. But issues they were facing prior to Covid-19 (such as mobility, access to food or the internet) were also compounded by the doubly disconnecting nature of lockdown.
As Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, I find ways to connect people. This usually means zipping about the city on my bike, speaking to neighbours at outreach engagements, and spreading the word in the best possible way I can – from the heart. Currently, I’m working from home - our ‘new normal’ since mid-March, and my outreach work has instead been focused on supporting older neighbours through regular check-in calls, helping them to access our emergency response programmes and connecting them to support for a variety of tasks: from food deliveries to a spot of weeding!
Our check-in calls have also been a key method for us to keep in touch with our neighbours, both existing and new, to see how they are getting on during this tough time; whether that’s through a quick gab every week or a longer conversation monthly.
Take Alma (72) for example, who was one of our regular Social Club attendees before lockdown. Since our programme suspension began back in March I’ve made 40 calls to Alma - supporting her with practical food deliveries, emotional support, and of course a bit of idle gossip and a good belly laugh! This has naturally become a mutually beneficial relationship, with kindness and support shown on both sides. And just like my relationship with Alma, we’ve seen special, mutual friendships blossom between the older and younger neighbours across our emergency response Phone a Friend and Virtual Social Clubs programmes too.
I’ve also been supporting new older neighbours who were referred through to us during Covid-19, including Beryl (76). As well as linking our neighbours to our programmes, we’re proud to be able to offer signposting and advice which can alleviate some of the anxieties that older neighbours can be faced with.
When we were first introduced to Beryl back in June, she was going through some deep personal struggles and was understandably feeling upset and lost as a result. Over the course of our regular calls Beryl has opened up, and I’ve been able to support her with practical advice she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to access, as Beryl- like so many of our older neighbours- doesn’t have access to the internet. The digital divide has felt more prevalent than ever in the face of coronavirus and lockdown but we’ve been able to navigate it by posting out information (and our Alone Together activity pack) to neighbours like Beryl, as well as speaking them regularly over the phone.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without your help.” (Beryl)
Understandably, this is only a small slice of the work we are doing behind the scenes at Liverpool Cares. We’re always putting people at the heart of everything we do, especially in the face of the challenging times we’re living in right now. Our city’s spirit is still strong, as is our humour, personality and fierce ability to fight back. Even in the most challenging times there are stories of kindness, love and connection emerging - making sure that we’re connected, even from afar.
We’re always on the lookout for more community connections, so if you’d like to become a referral partner or link up with Liverpool Cares in any way, please reach out to Rachael on [email protected] or call 0151 659 1789 to speak with the team.
Posted by Rachael Treacher on Tuesday 18th August 2020
Rachael Treacher is the Volunteer and Outreach Officer at Liverpool Cares: she manages our community network of younger and older neighbours.