“We know that no matter how simple it seems, some people just need to hear a friendly voice at the end of a phone” – Co manager of SHAPE Mandy
Agile organisations across the UK have been forced to adapt their operations during the pandemic and SHAPE Linc Line Lancashire has done just that. In fact, the programme has been so successful in finding new ways to support customers and local communities, that Places for People is now investing further; the programme is currently being rolled out to other communities across the country.
The service is a vital initiative that has been transforming the lives of Places for People customers by offering a face-to-face service which helped prevent loneliness. But when the pandemic hit earlier this year, the initiative was stalled, with vulnerable people who required support to feel connected to the outside world suddenly cut off.
Headed up by Kate Eastwood and Mandy Foster at Shape Lancashire, the service now offers phone call to check on customers’ wellbeing. “Pre-Covid, we visited vulnerable customers in their homes,” explains Kate. “But that obviously couldn't go ahead in lockdown.” The result? The quick-thinking volunteers at the helm of SHAPE LINC LINE adapted operations to become a telephone service, its new name an acronym for ‘Linking Into Neighbourhoods and Communities’.
Kate explains how they adapted:
“The process now sees our team call to check if there’s anything a customer needs. That could simply be helping them arrange an online grocery shop, a repeat prescription or even just to offer a friendly ear in times of isolation. Now with the Places for People funding that’s been so kindly donated this year, we also have the capacity to make repeat phone calls which help our team make better connections – befriending customers and making them feel connected.”
The Places for People funding means this new initiative is protecting more people from loneliness and isolation. The initial circa £30,000 investment by the Places for People Community Investment Fund helped the Befriending Service team’s initially reach out to up to 200 people per week. In November 2020, Places for People extended support for a further six months meaning that number could be increased to up to 400 vulnerable people who all now benefit from weekly phone calls – a lifeline during these unprecedented times.
Before the constraints of Covid 19, the Shape Lancashire team had rolled out across the county and committed to helping residents including those at Hornby Court in Blackburn – a community of 44 self-contained apartments for independent living for the over 55’s. The team was due to host a programme of fun activities such as cooking classes, visits to local Bury market and residents’ celebrations together. Unfortunately, the plans had to be cancelled due to lockdown but instead of postponing – the original funding was re-allocated to the team for befriending phone calls throughout Lancashire.
The team has also supported more acute cases, as Mandy explains: “Sadly this year one resident at Hornby Court passed away, but his accommodation has in turn potentially saved a life. One gentleman we reached out to, Ian, has transformed his life thanks to support and correct sign posting.
“Ian, who is 59, had lived between hostels and on the streets for over 20 years – in which time he struggled with alcohol and substance dependency. With funding from the council to help with his dependency, to provide a furnished flat, and with food provided via Ivy Street foodbank and support counselling via InSpire – Ian told us he’s never slept so well since moving into Hornby Court!
“To top it off – due to the turnaround in his life, Ian has also reduced his medication for anxiety and depression and found a new lease of life in his new community. He’s been introduced to people within Hornby Court , with one lovely lady giving him a fridge and another gentleman donating a cutlery set to help Ian get set up!”
Latif Patel, Place Manager at Places for People who has been involved in the programme, concludes: “The difference this service has made to our customers’ wellbeing is humbling.
“Human interaction is so important, and we’re overwhelmed by the success of the programme and the fabulous work Kate, Mandy and their team do. I know they’ve made great friends with some of our residents and have even held singsongs down the phone! Whether it be handholding, booking of doctors’ appointments or literally being the very first person who encourages someone to change and start afresh – I genuinely believe this service is priceless and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming success stories as we continue to fund well into 2021.”