Once the pandemic hit, an influx of eager volunteers helped Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services set up and run a phoneline for shielding people in the community.
Just before lockdown, the local authority commissioning officer approached Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services (CAVS) about setting up a telephone befriending service, as it did not have the capacity to do this. It was recognised that there would be many people shielding or self-isolating for a considerable period with no or little contact with the outside world. CAVS is the administrative partner for Carmarthenshire United Support Project (CUSP) ‘Home from hospital, home not hospital’, a partnership of 9 voluntary organisations committed to assisting people to live independently.
It was felt that a new telephone service would be a valuable addition to the existing activities of this project (transport, domiciliary care, crisis support, inter-generational arts project) and it was quickly set up.
Volunteers, and volunteer co-ordinators were recruited on www.volunteering-wales.net and by word of mouth through CUSP partners. Over 100 volunteers were quickly recruited, including nine coordinators.
‘We were inundated with offers of interest; we had to take down the opportunity from the website after just 2 days,’ said Jackie Dorrian, Health and Social Care Co-ordinator at CAVS ‘and the people who stepped forward are unbelievable, with such experience as well as commitment and time to offer.
‘There was a broad spectrum, including nurses and other professional people. Even people who are themselves shielding have been willing to volunteer’.
‘We were a little surprised that there was not an influx of people requiring this service but many organisations had set up their own systems for keeping in touch with people.
‘We have had many more volunteers than people requiring the service (63 to date). However, most of the volunteers are still with us, despite some of them not have yet been asked to call anyone.
‘Once the shielding requirement ends, we may find people becoming anxious about stepping outside the door and wanting to talk with someone.’
The service is for any age, not just for older people. It has helped younger people with anxiety or other mental health issues and has worked with homeless people and with those with issues relating to alcohol and substance misuse.
Referrals are made by the local authority, Delta Wellbeing (local authority owned provider of technology related care and support) and by local voluntary organisations such as Age Cymru Dyfed, and Carers Trust.
Volunteers are allocated by CAVS staff on the basis of clients’ requirements. Some volunteers have recognised counselling skills, for example. Some clients just want someone to chat to, others have more complex needs.
CAVS provides the necessary back up support for volunteers and through its contacts with CUSP partners and with the local Community Connector Plus, can access whatever support or information is required.
‘The project is here to stay, at least for a while’ said Jackie. ‘What would happen if we stopped now?’
Case study by Helpforce Cymru. Helpforce is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales,
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