A presentation will be provided by the British Red Cross.
The Chairman welcomed Lorna Sokolowski, Emergency Response Officer, Thames Valley and Juliette Ryans from the Community Education Team. Lorna and Juliette provided a presentation which had been appended to the minutes and advised that there were a number of services which operated regionally and met the Red Cross Strategy to support the most vulnerable. Lorna highlighted that one of the national services was the Covid Response Service which provided a national support line and a hardship fund. The British Red Cross also co-chaired the national Voluntary and Community Sector Emergency Partnership which linked from grassroots to the government to provide support and identify gaps.
Within Buckinghamshire, over 3,080 people had been supported since January 2020 in business as usual activities such as asylum support, taking to appointments, legal help etc. Lorna highlighted the work of a few of the teams/services in the area:
- The Independent Living Team at Wexham Park and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals had adapted and reached out to its most vulnerable users during the pandemic and often led to befriending calls. The service had reduced their in-home support but was still offering telephone support and connecting people to local organisations and community groups.
- The Mobility Aid Service provided low cost mobility aids; all income was re-invested into the service enabling aid to be provided free to those who were unable to pay.
- The Refugee Support and Family Links Team covered a range of activities; the cases in the Thames Valley were often complex and the service partnered with other agencies to provide holistic support.
- Business as usual for the Crisis Response Team was to provide rest centres and mutual aid after a largescale event such as flooding or fire. However, during the pandemic the team had provided direct provision for food, medication delivery etc. following contact through the national support line which linked into the local teams.
- The Red Cross had a hardship fund which targeted those who had not found support from other sources. Contact details could be provided to establish the CB as a partner to make referrals.
Juliette Ryans, Product Manager, Youth Community Education, advised that she managed all the Red Cross products for the under 18s. Covid-19 had affected everyone and increased loneliness for a large number of people and was likely to worsen over the winter. The Red Cross was supporting people to reduce loneliness and build connections and personal and community resilience through a suite of digital resources. All the resources had been created in collaboration with people who had experienced loneliness. Juliette highlighted some of the products available:
- A podcast entitled ‘The Kind Place’ where strangers had discussed their shared uplifting messages.
- Two online wellbeing packs; one for adults and one for young people which provided education on topics such as coping, connecting, wellbeing, kindness and first aid.
- Resources on dealing with conflict, disasters, emergencies, first aid, migration etc.
- Calendars, for December and January, online and in hard copy; one for adults and one for children which promoted acts of kindness and wellbeing during the winter and the importance of having connections and friends.
- A digital classroom which ran sessions of approximately 60-90 minutes, delivered online, and aimed to enable people to feel comfortable talking about feeling lonely and isolated and to recognise when someone needed support.
Juliette stressed that the Red Cross was keen that resources reached those in need as loneliness was impacting many people.
The following points were raised in discussion:
- In response to being asked whether the Red Cross had contact with social care as they were also running programmes to tackle loneliness; Juliette stated that the concept was to partner with grassroots organisations to maximise the good work. Lorna emphasised that the Red Cross had close links with organisations locally and the person involved would be supported by the most appropriate organisation according to need.
- A Member asked how it was possible to approach, and make a difference, with people who did not understand kindness. Juliette explained that the winter calendar encouraged small acts of kindness which would help; most people were fundamentally kind and it could just be by speaking to someone on the telephone and acknowledging that kindness stretched to looking after a person’s own wellbeing too.
The Chairman thanked Lorna and Juliette on behalf of the CB and added that loneliness would clearly be an issue as a result of Covid.