How can communities support ‘At Risk’ groups during isolation?

By Phil Dolan, Chief Executive, Age UK Somerset

Covid 19 is taking us all into unchartered territories. An understatement if ever there was one. Worrying times but also how uplifting to see so many people wanting to volunteer, to help, to shop, to care, to do something. But how best to use this amazing resource? And, just as important, how can we reduce the risks inherent in new initiatives?

The catalyst for the outpouring of so much goodwill across the country is undoubtedly the news that those over 70 will be asked to isolate themselves for a considerable period of time. They will need food, medical supplies in many cases, regular contact by phone or online. Many of these needs are easily sorted but perhaps the regular food supplies cause most concern. Not the fetching, nor the delivery but the payment.

How can you get cash if you are isolated at home? Is it wise to give your debit card and PIN to a stranger? Or maybe we eat donated food?

Some older people will be able to deal with matters themselves. They have done online supermarket shopping a while. They complete the order online, pay online and have it delivered at an agreed time and placed on their doorstep. Problem solved. Unfortunately, not all over 70s do this. However, they absolutely do NOT want charity. So, a village in Somerset has come up with a solution that utilises volunteers, protects the isolated older person and also adds to the sustainability of the local (often community) shop. It goes like this:

Volunteers in a village come together and pop a card through every letterbox offering a food delivery service for the over 70s. If that is you, you ring the volunteer co-ordinator, whose number is on the card and ask for a food delivery. To ensure no cash changes hands, the volunteer co-ordinator advises you to set up an account with the local shop. Once done, you make up your shopping list, leave it outside your house, ring the co-ordinator who picks it up, fills the order at the shop and has it delivered to your front door. The shop puts the total on your ‘slate’ to be settled at a future point. You have your shopping a receipt which allows you to tick the items off in the comfort of your own home as well as keep a running total of shopping to be paid for.

Advantages? The older person doesn’t have to worry about cash, cards or payment, the volunteers is protected from any accusations and the local shop secures its sustainability in difficult economic times.