'During the last 6 months we have seen rapid adjustments to the way people live and work as a result of COVID-19. Responding to first the lockdown and then the social distancing measures put in place by the government has been a challenge for individuals and organisations across the whole of society. At Help on Your Doorstep we had to adapt quickly  to continue our work with Islington residents, while keeping our staff and service users safe. 

A person laying their hands on top of another persons hands. Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay.  

How Help on your Doorstep responded to COVID-19 

Pre-COVID, our research has shown that isolation is a wide-spread issue across Islingtonwith men, people with disabilities and those living with long term conditions experiencing higher levels of isolation. People have told us that the support systems that they rely on are often not enough to prevent isolation. Social isolation can feel ‘devastating’ to those who experience it, with significant mental health implications. 

We have been particularly worried about residents who were already facing significant social isolation prior to the pandemic and those who use our activities to prevent feelings of isolation. There seems to be a vicious circle of social isolation preventing participation and non-participation entrenching social isolation. This has been exacerbated by first lockdown and then the social distancing measures.  

Delivering socially distanced support  

We have adapted existing services and developed new projects to respond to the practical and emotional challenges that Islington residents have faced during the initial phase of the social distancing measures and as lockdown has eased.  

Our Good Neighbours Scheme developed a programme of online activities that bring residents together through health and wellbeing events. It has been great to hear from residents like Jacob who has been enjoying our online football sessions. Val’s work on setting up a chat line and delivering socially distanced activities highlights the need for people to have opportunities to socialise together.  

Our Connect team have been on the forefront of checking on the welfare of Islington’s most vulnerable residents. Staff have referred residents into partner organisations, such as the Ctizens Advice Islington and local food banks to support residents to deal with issues such as debt, food security and energy poverty. As our Connect Adviser Gabi says, we have also used these phone calls as an opportunity to discuss wellbeing, providing information about online services that residents can access.  

Social prescribing can help with health needs that can’t be fixed by doctors and medication alone. Our Social Prescribing team has continued to work alongside GP Practices in the North and Central areas of Islington. During the last 6 months we have improved the way that GPs can link their patients into our social prescribing service. The response from the wider community has been amazing. 

Volunteer befriender training taking place on Zoom.

Since March we have inducted and trained almost 70 new befriending volunteers. They are supporting vulnerable and isolated people across Islington, with regular befriending calls or deliveries of essential items. In addition, many of our existing volunteers have continued to support the organisation. For example, Fabiana who volunteered at our Good Neighbours Scheme coffee mornings has been delivering activity packs to families.  

Continuing to put client needs at the centre of our work  

Every part of the organisation has had to change its method of delivering services. Despite the challenges we kept our advice line open and reached out to clients who needed our supportI am extremely proud of the staff team for adapting so quickly to enable us to continue to meet the needs of people across Islington. They have been adapting to new systems and juggling family life to deliver.

It is not an understatement to say that Help on Your Doorstep would not have been able to continue to deliver services, without the commitment and dedication of our staff and volunteers. They continue to put client needs at the centre of their work. I know that they will continue to do this as we plan a safe return tdelivering services from our community based offices and venues.' 

Ken Kanu- Director, Help on Your Doorstep