`The phone call is a great comfort to me. It is the only time all day that my phone rings`.
During the Crisis, Cork City Partnership has significantly scaled up our Friendly Call Cork service, which provides a daily phone call to older or isolated people. All the Friendly Call clients are cocooning, so as well as providing the call we have also responded with other practical supports, such as grocery shopping and dog walking and as the weeks have gone on to other needs which have emerged such as providing books and jigsaws.
In the lead up to the lockdown we put in place systems using SICAP staff to ensure that the co-ordination of the call service could be maintained should the Friendly Call Development Worker, who is line managed by the SICAP Co-ordinator, become ill themselves. Since then we have redeployed several other Programme staff to Friendly Call. Without the support and resources of the other Programmes in the Company, this scaling up of Friendly Call to meet the additional need caused by the crisis would not have been possible. So, for example, SICAP staff are making calls to clients, helping with the co-ordination of the call service/liaising with volunteers and provision of the additional services.
In the initial couple of weeks it became clear that to be able to respond to the volume of new people being referred to the service, we needed to establish a separate team to co-ordinate grocery shopping, prescription collection etc. for Friendly Call clients. This team is made up of SICAP staff and CCP’s Tus Community Work Placement Team Leaders who have used their vans to make the delivery to the older person.
In relation to food for the Friendly Call clients we are providing both a grocery shopping service for fresh food such as milk and bread and arranging hampers for those in need. For the provision of hampers we liaised with Food Cloud to ensure the most efficient way of food supply and as a result are now collaborating with FeedCork.
As demand continued to grow for calls, another member of the SICAP team took on responsibility for following up on maintenance and other similar needs of the Friendly Call clients, such as making contact with the Irish Red Cross to obtain some of their comfort packs, making access to the Hardship Fund and applying to Alone for mobile phones.
We are also conscious that many older people do not have access to the internet to access information. In response another SICAP team member has prepared an information pack for older people which we are making available to the Friendly Call clients.
Staff from other agencies and companies in the city have also offered their support and we now have staff from Cork City Council, the HSE Community Work Department and ARUP amongst others making daily calls to clients.
Our key partners in providing the service are our existing team of 27 volunteer callers who have been making the calls from their homes throughout the crisis; they are making the calls to the 218 clients we had on the service at the start as they are known to the clients. We now have over 360 clients receiving a daily call. The new clients are being called by a 20 strong team of CCP staff and those from other agencies and companies. We also have a number of new community volunteers to ensure that we can sustain the service over the medium term once the redeployed staff return to their usual duties. All the new callers have been Garda vetted and trained.
Throughout we have received a lot of offers of help and support to Friendly Call. We were delighted that the Lord Mayor visited us to give us his support (see photo above) and this resulted in a subsequent positive article in The Examiner. Other examples of support given include a donation from the Ireland China Cork Business Association of PPE to give to older people as they start to go out and about again (see photo below) and Cork Healthy Cities who gave us a supply of books and jigsaws to give to clients. We are grateful for all the support given.