Collaborative Community response to COVID19 Pandemic

16/06/2020

In response to COVID19 Pandemic, the Western Trust established a Virtual Call Service for “Shielded” individuals across the  Trust area.

The service aims to ensure that those who are identified as most vulnerable and residing in the WHSCT area have adequate practical, emotional and social help and support to self-isolate at home during the COVID19 outbreak. Following the initial referral from Advice NI, an assessment is carried out and a range of support is offered under the key themes of the shielding package which include food, fuel, medication and social contact.

The service is delivered in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Community and Voluntary Sector, Advice NI and the Department for Communities.

Spotlight on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Area

This week we are focusing on Action for Children (Fermanagh/Omagh Early Intervention Family Support Hubs) and South West Age Partnership in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area.

Seána Connor and Karen Mc Hugh (Action for Children Fermanagh and Omagh Hubs) and Allison Forbes (South West Age Partnership) told us about the work that their organisations are doing in their community in response to the COVID19 crisis.

Both organisation have increased the scope of their services to provide advice over the phone, online support, email support service and social media updates to name but a few.

Allison Forbes, South West Age Partnership “We have developed be-spoke activity packs that include mindfulness colouring sheets, word searches, COVID19 support leaflets and a craft project or a jigsaw. We did this because we wanted to let our older people know we care about them and even though we are all social distancing, we are still thinking about them. The response and feedback from our participants has been heart-warming. Our entire service centres on staying connected and reducing isolation”.

“We are also providing an online physical activity programme for our older people. This is a great way for an older person to maintain their physical activity levels. It also boosts that ‘feel good’ factor after each at home work out. Most of our Board members have access to emails but the majority had never taken part in a virtual meeting.So the challenge was to get them ready for online support. With some creative thinking and innovation, our older people worked around the rural IT problems of 2020”.

“We had our first virtual ZOOM meeting. It was fantastic! We could see each other for the first time in 5-6 weeks. Some of our older people have been self-isolating and shielding at home so it made such a difference for them to be able to see other members of the group. We shared stories, laughed, smiled and learned from eachother about rural and urban lockdown life”.

“It was a very special moment for everyone and a memory that we will all cherish. Our older people are now building upon their first Zoom experience and are using it to connect with their family, friends and grandchildren. SWAP is hoping to use Zoom for our local cluster meetings and AGM in June 2020. We are working hard at getting more local older people reconnected via virtual meetings. We are learning new skills, supporting our volunteers and members to move to an online user friendly service”.

“We are constantly trying to think outside of the box for new ways to support our participants through this pandemic. We use our social media platforms as a forum for positivity. We share up to date health information, humorous stories, tips on how to stay safe and share links from other organisations. Despite the challenges COVID19 has thrown at everyone, it showed us all how resilient and determined our elderly population really are”.

Seána Connor, Action for Children (Fermanagh Early Intervention Family Support Hub) “It was clear from conversations with the local Community Family Support Hubs Partners across Fermanagh, that some co-ordinators, staff and volunteers were feeling isolated and finding working from home quite challenging when trying to deliver support to local families. So we decided to set up virtual Fermanagh Hub Networking Catch-up meetings using Microsoft Teams. The feedback from our family support hub partners was really positive. We initially started with 12 agencies taking part in our first meeting and this has jumped to 17 Hub partners in our second meeting”.

Karen Mc Hugh, Action for Children (Omagh Family Support Hub) “Our Omagh Hub had its first & second meetings with 11 other Family Support Hub Partners at each. We used our online meetings to share ideas & information, highlight examples of good practice and update each hub member about resources that could be used to support vulnerable families. It was a new experience for us all and despite some initial technical difficulties; it was a great way to keep in touch. It also enabled us to support local families through the COVID19 pandemic in timely and professional manner.”

Karen and Seána explained “It was fantastic to see so many of our Hub partners across Fermanagh and Omagh utilising their skills. Our partners are providing online bed time reading tips, Teams and ZOOM calls to young people and online mental health support”.

Some groups are providing food parcel support, listening ear service and so much more. There is a strong togetherness among the family support hubs at present.

We all know that a coordinated family agency approach across Fermanagh and Omagh is the best way to support local families and children through these difficult times.

Both Fermanagh and Omagh Action for Children Family Support Hubs are fully operational and accepting professional and self (family) referrals.

Next time we will bring you our Community Hub video piece from Fermanagh and West Tyrone Community Hubs.

CLICK HERE for all the latest updates and information with regard to the Community Planning information to deal with COVID19.

Click Here to view the Latest Community Hub Update