Volunteers have been talking about their personal experience of how Trafford’s Community Response Hubs are helping vulnerable people across the borough during the Covid-19 crisis.
Isolated individuals who had previously slipped through gaps in the welfare system are now being helped via the huge efforts of volunteers across Trafford’s six Community Response Hubs.
At centres in Altrincham, Old Trafford, Partington, Sale, Stretford and Urmston, an army of helpers, call handlers, Council staff and partners have come into their own in the last couple of months; taking and making thousands of calls, delivering hundreds of food parcels and supporting people from all walks of life during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Last week volunteers from three hubs spoke to the Manchester Evening News about the daily workings of the six Trafford hubs, the people they help, the impact they’re having and what their future might look like.
Old Trafford Community Response Hub
Christine Aspinall is the leader at Old Trafford’s Community Response Hub, which is based at the St John’s centre.
It has been amazing to see how the service has come together after much hard work, adding it’s been a learning curve with more very vulnerable people being found and the situation changing “on a daily basis".
The fact that everybody’s pulled together and money is being offered to groups like ours to do the work has been really positive.
;The working together across the Council, the partners and volunteers and the community response to volunteering… it’s been amazing. I just hope it carries on.
People’s needs are being met, but there are some very vulnerable people out there and we’re finding that out more ourselves. While it’s not a great situation, these times have thrown up where the need is and we are working out how we go forward with that in the future.
The needs are still going to be there for a while beyond this. But St John’s centre has organically moved along, meeting need as it’s arisen. This is another need and we’ve been able to rise to the challenge. It’s an absolute honour to be involved. It’s where people hearts are and it’s about making a difference, getting to know one another and working together.
On the surface” it’s all running very smoothly, with people getting their shopping dropped off and food parcels being delivered, but behind that is a colossal effort from all involved – from volunteers to councillors and council partners.
She believes the collaborative work of different organisations and bodies across the borough through the hubs will “stand us in good stead” for the future.
Sale Community Response Hub
Suzanne Kelly is a call handler and volunteer for the Sale hub, she does a phone shift every Tuesday morning and helps with food shops and prescription pick-ups.
The mum said her calls vary, with some people asking for help for themselves and others asking on behalf of their elderly relatives.
It’s mainly the elderly that we’re supporting and people who need to shield for medical reasons.
We get calls from the sons and daughters of elderly residents who can’t help because they don’t live in the area and they can’t travel. Their parents might not be internet savvy and they’re not sure what support networks their parents have got. But they heard about the hubs and are ringing up to ask more about them and the help on offer.
For them to come through an official network organised by the Council, it definitely gives them peace of mind.
Suzanne also said more people who need help are being identified through the hubs and their work.
The situation highlights the people who need people to support them and the gaps in the system. It’s sometimes hard to find these isolated people.
One gentleman rang to say his father had lost his partner. When the parents are together, they’re supporting each other, but there are now going to be people that have been bereaved facing different roles in the home.
But all of the people that have asked for help have been straightforward, I haven’t taken any calls where I felt disempowered. If you know you can help people, you do feel empowered.
If you didn’t have confidence that we had the volunteers or that we were over capacity it would be different.”
Suzanne explained all volunteers are well trained, given appropriate PPE and hand sanitiser as necessary, DBS checked and offered 24 hour support by central Hub Managers.
All calls from across the area come into the Hubs via a central, dedicated telephone number, set up by the Council at the start of the outbreak. It is then the job of call handlers like Suzanne to signpost residents towards the help that they need.
Suzanne explained call handlers also make ‘care calls’ to check in with those who are shielding, isolated or vulnerable to offer support, a friendly chat or to arrange help.
She thinks the Hubs are making a real difference, including strengthening the sense of community in Trafford – although she says in Sale this has always been strong.
It’s really nice to speak to people and we’re not too busy or over capacity to have to rush people off the phone.
I’m really pleased to be involved with this, it lets you know what your council and partnerships are doing and you’re meeting other people in the community network – building relationships. The sense of community is definitely getting stronger.
And there are lots of local Facebook groups, spreading good news. The positivity is really out there, that counteracts some of the scaremongering that’s been going on.”
Urmston Community Response Hub
Ashlea, 30, and Liam, 31, both volunteer through the Urmston hub for Age UK.
Ashlea works full time and volunteers in the evenings in her spare time and has volunteered in the past, but for Liam it’s a new experience.
Ashlea explained volunteers get emails from the Hub and then go out to run errands and drop off care boxes or people’s shopping.
We’ve delivered quite a few care boxes for a range of people, with tins, toiletries and we dropped off some Easter eggs too.
It’s mainly elderly people we’re helping through Age UK and we’ve been helping people who’ve just come out of hospital, not necessarily Covid related. But we’ve been supporting single parents and families too.”
Ashlea added that the reaction to lockdown seems to be different across the age groups that volunteers are working with.
It’s a bit of mix, old people seem to be taking it in their stride, but younger people seem to be struggling more. And cracks in the system have been brought to light in the situation, especially for the elderly who don’t have family nearby.
A lot of elderly people have seemed more isolated, you see people have neighbours – maybe it would an idea for people to knock on and see how people are getting on from time to time.”
Currently, the future role of the Hubs is under discussion, and Trafford Housing Trust has announced it is administrating an effort to fundraise £250,000 to help to fund the Hubs and other front line community work in the borough going forward.
The effort is being supported by the Trafford Partnership, which includes the Council, Thrive, Trafford Housing Trust, residents, charities and Sale Sharks rugby club.
Cllr Andrew Western, Trafford Council’s Leader, said:
These are very worrying times for all of our vulnerable and isolated residents and Trafford Council and our partners are doing everything possible to protect them.
This fundraising campaign is a fantastic idea and will help those most in need in our borough. I am amazed by the generosity of the Trafford public and have no doubt they will support this very worthwhile cause.”
Donations can be made via the JustGiving page.
Adapted from a Manchester Evening News article that first appeared on Saturday 9th May 2020
Posted on Wednesday 13th May 2020