A Southampton charity working towards eradicating loneliness and isolation has launched a new telephone service with Social Care in Action (SCiA) and Southampton University to help support the city’s vulnerable. Communicare recently officially unveiled its ‘Hello Southampton’ telephone support service, which offers regular scheduled phone calls up to five times a week to isolated or vulnerable people.
The charity’s Manager, Annie Clewlow says: “Back in May, we piloted our Hello Southampton project, which provides a new form of telephone support. The way it works is that vulnerable members of the community, for instance people living alone who would benefit from a regular check-in, can opt for a daily, or less frequent, phone call to see that all is well. The idea is to try to step in at a stage when there are minor difficulties, which, if left to progress, could become a major crisis.”
Communicare’s team of volunteers, known as Communiteers, make the Hello Southampton calls to check on an individual’s wellbeing and have a quick chat, providing reassurance and a friendly ear. Annie continues: “This service is particularly important with the current on-going pandemic, which is preventing people from socialising as normal and this can have an impact on their physical health and mental wellbeing.
“The idea is based on a scheme originally thought up more than 15 years ago, which became ‘Good Morning Northern Ireland’. We have been looking for an opportunity to provide something similar here in Southampton for a number of years, so leapt at the chance to give it a go when the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) offered us some funding to get it off the ground.
“We’re now looking for kind-hearted people to volunteer for Hello Southampton. We’re looking for people who could regularly give us one hour a week, between 9am and 1pm Monday-Friday. With the recent new COVID-19 restrictions coming into force, and as we go into the winter, we know lots of people who may be early retirees or active pensioners will now be at home more. This means they may have time on their hands and could help us by making these calls.
“In the time they give, they could help up to five people feel less lonely and reassure them that someone is looking out for them. The feedback we’ve had from clients so far has been fantastic and shows the real difference a regular phone call can make to someone. Volunteers will need access to a phone and internet.”
Communicare, which is a friendly, neighbourhood charity, provides services that enrich the lives of lonely and isolated people in and around Southampton. These services are staffed by its committed, kind-hearted Communiteers, who volunteer and give their time freely.
Annie adds: “They act as good neighbours, generously making regular befriending telephone calls, safely driving people to urgent medical appointments and doing shopping for those unable to leave home at the moment, as well as providing other practical and emotional support.”
The charity’s Good Neighbours’ Network normally supports around 400 individuals/families annually, covering more than 2,300 tasks including one-to-one befriending, transport to activities, such as the regular lunch clubs and tea parties it hosted before the lockdown and shopping for, or, pre-COVID-19, with, those it helps.
Communiteer Mary Schofield, who has been volunteering on the Hello Southampton project, is finding it really rewarding. She says: “I’ve found it an enjoyable experience and the responses I receive are warm and friendly. I feel people look forward to my calls.”
Normally Communicare’s services are linked to hosting face-to-face social events, such as regular lunches and tea parties for service users, but the charity, understandably, is unable to organise these currently due to ongoing Government restrictions on gatherings. Currently more of Communicare’s work is done via the telephone, post and online.
Communiteer, Pauline Imrie says: “It really lifts my mood knowing that I have done something to help someone else. I enjoy my morning shift chatting to four or five people, especially now that we have got to know each other. One gentleman gave me very good advice about taking geranium cuttings – and he was right! I’ve been so pleased to be part of the Hello Southampton team. COVID-19 has changed all our lives this year and for those people who are unable to get out, a friendly phone call is a lifeline. It isn’t much to ask and makes such a difference to a vulnerable person. It’s a great start to my day, having a quick check in with my group of clients and I look forward to hearing about their plans for the day. I’m not sure who enjoys it most!”
Events & Communicare coordinator, Kate Laver has just joined the team to make calls too. She says: “I’m looking forward to joining the Hello Southampton team and making a difference to our service users. I know from my work with Communicare that a friendly regular check-in call can make all the difference to a person’s wellbeing.”
The services Communicare provides are free to users, although beneficiaries are invited to make a donation if they are able to, and Communiteers are offered expenses.
Communicare’s new Hello Southampton telephone support service offers regular scheduled phone calls up to five times a week, Monday-Friday, to isolated or vulnerable people in Southampton. The charity is inviting people from all walks of life and of all ages who have time available, to get in touch.
To find out more about Communicare, visit www.communicareinsouthampton.org.uk.