How the Pandemic has Affected our Advocacy Service
Coronavirus disrupted our service considerably over the last year. New rules have come in, lockdowns imposed and lifted and we have seen a great increase in social isolation, Mental Health needs have increased including anxiety and stress. Nevertheless the amazing team at Shropshire Peer Counselling and Advocacy Service have battled through, adapted and have spent the last 12 months helping the most vulnerable people with any disability to have a better quality of life.
Delivering our Service during Lockdowns
Over the last financial year we helped 352 people with over 2400 client issues, a slight decrease on the previous year due to the many restrictions imposed upon us. We had to change our working practices to protect vulnerable people and those shielding so we started with phone consultations as opposed to face to face meetings and we even spoke to clients through their windows, delivering food and meals and generally keeping an eye on them.
When things started picking up, we adapted and resumed our service only to go back into a second lockdown which for many of our clients hit them much harder than the first one. Just when they thought things were getting back to normality the isolation, loneliness and mental health issues all kicked in and our services were even more in demand. Some clients live in fear, not just of the virus but of other people judging or being rude to them as some are unable to wear masks. Some clients have isolated themselves completely and dread going out just to get food.
Filling the Gap of Other Services
We did what we could to fill the gap left by other voluntary and statutory services like local authorities and social care with staff working from home and services like mental health, GP’s and hospitals very difficult to access. In fact, even now, many voluntary services are not back up and running as they were pre-pandemic and people with disabilities have had to cope with many changes to their care and their lifestyles.
The pandemic really has pushed so much help and support backwards that it will take us all a long time to get back to ‘normal’. Our clients often have multiple, complex issues that are time consuming to unpick and sort out. In many cases we have had to start almost at the beginning when face to face contact started again as people just don’t open up as much during a telephone conversation and you cannot see the body language.
Mental Health Issues on the Increase
This year we have seen a big increase in mental health issues, child protection issues and domestic violence and lots of trouble with clients accessing benefits or people having benefits stopped. It has been difficult to contact the right person and the appeals and tribunals process have been delayed due to people working at home and a backlog of cases.
Sadly, our waiting list has the highest ever number of people waiting with 80 people that we cannot help at this time being referred to us as so many services are stretched to breaking point. This shows the ever growing need for our services.
Nevertheless, our advocates are so passionate about helping and supporting their clients and have embraced having to work remotely and sorting out issues even though this all takes longer than normal. We are now working back as normal, visiting clients once again in their own homes and we will continue to offer as much help and support as we can so that our clients can move forward and live the best life they can.
Please get in touch if you think you can help in any way.
Simon Arthur, PCAS, Tel: 01691658008, Email: email@example.com