Good Morning Carrickfergus
In celebration of Positive Ageing Month, which celebrates the contribution older people make to their communities, we hear from Elain Rajkumar, Volunteer Co-ordinator about the fantastic work going on at Good Morning Carrickfergus.
Good Morning Carrickfergus is a free telephone befriending and alert service for older and vulnerable adults within the Greenisland, Carrickfergus and Whitehead area. Our aim is to enable people to stay safe and confident in their own homes for longer.
The service operates Monday to Friday offering up to 5 calls per week. Besides our telephone calls we also host monthly lunch groups and a bi-monthly men’s group. The calls are made by a team of 17 volunteers with a further 5 catering volunteers.
At the beginning of March 2020 when the Covid 19 pandemic was unfolding we were aware that the provision of our service would need to change. Most of the volunteers are over 70 themselves so they, along with 80% of the client base, would be required to shield. GMC has always been highly aware of the privacy of our clients and has always taken measures to protect any personal information given to us. We have never, before allowed volunteers to work from home to protect that privacy. After consulting with our software provider, we came up with a solution to limit the information available on screen, in order to allow working from home. The volunteers rose to the challenge of working from home and some continue to do so.
During the first few months of the lockdown we saw our referrals increase dramatically. We had 45 referrals from varying sources. Compare this to the same period in 2019 when we only received 6! Some of our existing clients were also wanting to increase their calls as other places, such as day centres and clubs, they went to during the week had closed. The volume of calls increased by almost 30% from 1/4/20-30/6/20 we made more than 6200 calls.
As we will not be able to host any social groups or even our Christmas lunch we have come up with a plan to put together ‘winter packs’ and to deliver a pre-cooked meal to each client from October to December. The ‘winter packs’ consist of a blanket, hot water bottle, mug, tea bags, biscuits, pen and torch, amongst other treats. We involved the local community by asking for volunteers to knit blankets for us as we thought a cosy hand knit would be more personal. The response has been phenomonal. Local retailers have also been great by helping with bulk orders.
GMC is hoping that the new year will bring more stability and we will be able to restart our social programme as we love to see our clients face to face.