A vital lifeline for vulnerable people during COVID-19

24 March 2020

A guest blog from Rachel Hill, Director of BEfriend, a small charity that provides a befriending service for socially isolated people.

Coping with a crisis

Earlier this week we spoke to an 80 year-old lady on the phone, whose partner, also her main carer, has just returned from hospital after having a major operation. They have no family and have to stay in self-isolation.

The lady told us that she’s scared and doesn’t know who to trust. She had someone knocking on her door offering help but didn’t know if it was genuine. She was so relieved to speak to someone at BEfriend, and to hear that we’d arrange to get her shopping so that she’d have everything she needed over the coming weeks.

Many people experience isolation as they get older. For those without family close by, the weeks can go by without them leaving the house or seeing anyone.

Yesterday we received a phone call from a lady in Australia. Her older parents had just returned from visiting her and were now in isolation. She was extremely worried about them and had tried to arrange online shopping for them, but there were no delivery slots available. We reassured her that we would take some shopping around to her parents and keep supporting them until she could get an online shop ordered.

We spoke to another lady living in Northern Ireland who was beside herself with worry about her father living alone in Ealing. He had nobody to support him. She too had been trying to arrange online shopping but wasn’t able to. She was hugely relieved to know that we’re here to help.

Supporting vulnerable, isolated people

BEfriend is a small charity that links up isolated adults in Ealing with volunteers who visit them at their home. The people we support get so much out of seeing their volunteer befrienders – for many of them, it’s the only meaningful social contact they have.

On 18th March we had to deliver the heart-breaking news that all face-to-face visits would be suspended until further notice, due to COVID-19. But we’re determined to continue supporting everyone in the community who needs our help.

Continuing our support

The next day, we set up an emergency telephone and support service for the most vulnerable people in Ealing. We raised £1,200 in one day for an emergency shopping fund for those without access to cash because of isolation.

Our amazing volunteers are continuing their friendships with befriendees through regular phone calls. They’re helping to pick up and deliver much-needed essentials for those who need it. We’re also seeing more and more new volunteers join, who want to help us through this crisis.

A huge force for good

The local charity sector is a huge force for good. We’re working closely with other local charities to ensure nobody in the community is left without the support they need.

One positive we’ve noticed is that the local community are extremely generous. So far, they have donated £2,100, so we can buy shopping for people who have no other support and no access to their cash due to isolation.

As we all adjust to this strange, new world, I want to thank everyone who is doing all they can to support those who are most vulnerable at this time. We will get through this together. This will be a time we look back on and celebrate the amazing examples of communities supporting each other through some of the worst times.