#COVID-19 – Government launches initiative to phone older people to check on wellbeing

2 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
bryan@TheCork.ie

Minister Ring urges participants on Seniors Alert Scheme to ensure their personal alarm is activated

Mr Michael Ring TD, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, has today (Thursday) announced a new befriending phone-call initiative to support participants of the Seniors Alert Scheme which is being funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development. The initiative will allow older people to receive a regular phone call to check on their wellbeing and needs during the current COVID-19 emergency. The befriending scheme will be operated in conjunction with POBAL and ALONE.

Minister Ring is using his Department’s Seniors Alert Scheme, which provides monitored alarms for older people in their homes, to enable this initiative. The initiative aims to provide peace of mind and local assistance to older people, of whom more than 80,000 are registered on the Seniors Alert Scheme.

The new befriending initiative requires users to test their alarms to ensure that they are still active. Monitoring providers or local community groups operating the Senior Alerts Scheme service will contact the user.

Once the user tests their alarm, they will be called back and asked if they would like to avail of a befriending call service through ALONE, and either the number of ALONE is given to the participant, or their consent is sought for ALONE to be provided with their contact details to be included in the befriending service.

Minister Ring has urged older people who have the personalised alarms to ensure they are activated. He said:

“Now is the time to make sure your alarm is working, and contact your local community organisation if you have any concerns. This initiative is an example of how we are adapting the way we work and using all tools at our disposal to ensure that everyone feels supported and connected at this time.

“ALONE, POBAL and the Seniors Alert Scheme monitoring providers will deliver this service and the 670 registered groups will play a vital role in connecting participants to this service, as they are the groups that know their communities best.

“I would also take this opportunity to remind everyone that volunteering should be done in a safe way so that neither volunteers nor those in need are put at risk, and to always follow the latest HSE guidelines.

“This befriending initiative complements the measures taken in the COVID-19 Action Plan to Support the Community Response, and I will commit additional resources as necessary to ensuring the success of the scheme.”

The Senior Alerts Scheme is operated locally by some 670 community groups throughout the State, and administered by POBAL on behalf of the Minister. The involvement of these community groups ensures that the service has a strong local dimension as these groups are embedded in communities throughout the country.

The involvement of ALONE in this befriending phone-call initiative is critical. It has the nationwide capacity to provide this service, and it is part of their significant and vital contribution to the measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

The ALONE Helpline can also be contacted on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know

More information

The Department of Rural and Community Development compiled the recently launched COVID-19 Action Plan to Support the Community Response, with the assistance of the Advisory Group on the Community Response.

The Seniors Alert Scheme befriending initiative also compliments the Local Authority Community Support Response to COVID-19, prepared by the local government sector, working with Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Health and the Department of An Taoiseach. The Department of Rural and Community Development is a member of the national governance structure of this Framework.

The national governance group will:

· Agree overall process to be implemented in each local authority area

· Put in place protocols, based around public health COVID-19 requirements, for individual engagement

· Engagement with and co-ordination of volunteer organisations nationally

· Monitoring implementation across the sector and troubleshooting issues

· Engagement with businesses and other bodies offering support on a national basis

· The Department of Health will identify any new public health guidance requirements and provide such guidance through the NPHET public health structures.

A Forum will be established in each local authority area to be chaired and co-ordinated by each Chief Executive (or equivalent) in each County/City Council. Membership includes representatives of the HSE, local authority officials, statutory bodies and agencies, and representatives of community and voluntary groups and networks. Many of these community groups are funded at a national and local level by various funding schemes operated by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

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