We caught up with Diana Bigwell, business development manager at Age UK Surrey.
In this interview, Diana gives us more insight into how Age UK Surrey provide services supporting local elderly communities. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in huge challenges for the charity to adapt and continue their work.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how Age UK Surrey is set up?
Age UK Surrey is a local independent charity. We are the experts in Surrey on older people’s issues and provide one to one support and group activities.
What are the main wellbeing issues you feel are facing the elderly community in Surrey? How do Surrey Age UK respond to this?
We have a large and growing elderly community in Surrey. Although no one issue fits all the main ones that we know impact older people the most are: loneliness and isolation, how to stay independent at home, managing deteriorating health and mobility, understanding care options and managing money through later life.
We provide a free and confidential information and advice service, with Advisors who are experts on all issues affecting older people. Friendly and reliable Home Helps in our Help at Home service are more than just cleaners. They provide companionship, collect prescriptions, change the beds – a complete tailored service. The Help at Home service also gives peace of mind to relatives, knowing that a regular Home Help is visiting.
We also provide Befriending services (home visiting) and have recently introduced a telephone befriending Check in and Chat to meet the needs of people who are staying home to stay safe. We have also responded to the crisis by offering a Volunteer Shopping service for people who are unable to get to the supermarket for essential items. Our social group activities provide a place for people to meet and make new friends while enjoying an activity – be it chatting over a cup of coffee, learning a new skill, exercising or walking. Due to Covid-19 we are not currently running the sessions but will do so as soon as it is safe for our clients and volunteers.
We also support people to get online and can give advice on those ‘how to’ questions and ‘why can’t I make it do this’ type questions! We have recently launched a telephone support service with Digital volunteer buddies!
What are the main considerations concerned relatives have when choosing support services for their relatives?
The main considerations for concerned relatives when choosing support services is a trusted and reliable organisation that can provide holistic support. We know that where advisors, home helps or volunteers are visiting regularly in the home or providing regular support calls, having the same regular friendly person who can build a relationship over time with the older person is very much appreciated. Relatives also want the peace of mind that comes from knowing that a someone is regularly visiting who can spot changes and feedback to them. It is important as well that the organisation has processes in place to be agile in response when needed.
How do you work with other organisations, e.g. NHS bodies, local councils and why is this collaboration key?
Working with other organisations in partnership is so important to ensure that clients can be supported in an integrated way. Professionals in healthcare and adult social care refer people to us. We work in partnership to design and develop services and collaborate with other voluntary sector organisations too. We are currently working in partnership with an NHS body who has facilitated an online wellbeing platform: Surrey Virtual Wellbeing Hub. We offer online virtual group sessions on Coping in Lockdown and we anticipate this to be a growing area, with more types of sessions being made available.
What do you feel are the key challenges providing services moving forward through the pandemic?
We feel the key challenges moving forward for older people as we ease through lockdown will be to support people in building their confidence to go out again and to reconnect socially with others. We will be guided by government guidelines but also what our clients tell us they comfortable with and how we can best support them in the future. It is important that we can reach as many older people in Surrey to let them know how we can support them – especially when they may not be going out to appointments and social activities as they used to.
Why were you keen to get involved with Age Space?
Age UK Surrey is a trusted local charity, dedicated to improving the lives of older people. Being able to access trusted information is at the heart of what we do and we wanted to get involved with Age Space as it reaches out to the ‘sandwich generation’ – people who may concerned about their parents or grandparents and looking for local support. Age Space is a fresh and innovative new website that brings together useful information and signposts to organisations that can provide support.
Thank-you very much Diana for your time and for the great work that Age UK Surrey do!
If you feel your elderly parent or relative would benefit from the support Age UK Surrey provides, please find contact details below.