9 April 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Cork’s Friendly Call service, where volunteers make a daily call to people living alone, has seen a 27% hike in phone calls since Covid 19 restrictions began.
Friendly Call is run by Cork City Partnership. It is one of the 30 plus organisations that are taking part in the Community Response Forum (CRF), co-ordinated by Cork City Council, which ensures that vulnerable members of the community or those living alone can access vital grocery, medicine and fuel deliveries and social care supports.
The service is making up to 60-80 extra calls a week with the increased number of referrals coming from the CRF helpline, Alone, public health nurses, hospital discharge co-ordinators, social workers and other HSE staff. There has also been an increase in the number of self referrals – some of whom are people with existing mental health needs who find the current restrictions challenging.
“These staff and another 40 volunteers are now making daily ‘friendly calls’ to people who derive great benefit from that daily check-in. Ten of these volunteers joined up in recent weeks as the Cork City Volunteer Centre have been a great support. It’s something that I hope we will carry with us after all of this ends: the sense that we are all in this together and that we can make a huge difference in our communities when we all come together”.
Brenda Barry, from Cork City Partnership, said: “ Apart from making phone calls, we are helping clients by shopping for groceries and dropping them off for people with no family. We are walking dogs, collecting prescriptions and we’ve dropped in St Vincent de Paul and St Vincents GAA hampers to others. We had volunteers drop a cake and Easter egg into a 93 year old man this week for his birthday. We ring him regularly and he was delighted with the surprise at the door. We are also working with gardai to make arrangements to help people to collect pensions”.
Friendly Call operates Monday to Friday. Volunteers are trained, Garda vetted and supported by experienced mentors. It is funded by HSE Social Inclusion and Cork ETB and receives additional funding from companies around the city. Cork City Partnership receives Local Community Development Committee/Cork City Council funding. Other agencies around the city have also made staff available to Friendly Call.
The CRF dedicated helpline is available from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. seven days a week at 1800-222-226. Support can also be accessed via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The phone line is just one aspect of the Forum’s work. Its core aim, as part of the Community Call, is contributing to the community-wide effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring a coordinated community response. The Council’s COVID-19 CRF will work to ensure that local resources – including social care support and social contact – are targeted at the people who need them most.
Cork City has been broken into 16 local area teams with a Cork City Council community worker and HSE community worker in each area who will work with ‘local champions’ – namely the existing voluntary organisations and groups who know their locality and can help us to match need with service delivery. Each of the 16 local areas also has a link to Community Garda Services.