The Denby Dale Centre has operated as a registered charity for the past 15 years with aims to reduce rural isolation.
Presently the charity, operating as Time Together, aims:
to connect people
relieve loneliness and isolation, and
improve quality of life
community transport and
places to meet
...to promote a fulfilled life.
There are 20 connecting people projects operated by @TimeTogether1 including 3x community transport projects that are supported by a grant from the governments first anti loneliness #BuildingConnectionsFund from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the #NationalLottery Community Fund. Our transport projects are branded "Better Transport, Better Connections, Better Lives". The governments first Loneliness Report is available here and features the work of these transport projects.
The Lords Minister for Loneliness, the Baroness Diana Baran visited the Denby Dale Centre at a social presecribing event in Kirkburton in March 2020, following reading about the work of the charity.
Other projects include a 5x #dementia social groups, film club, #SocialPrescribing coffee morning, cream teas, tea dance, coffee-stop, #KirkburtonHub community centre, Denby Dale Centre drop in and charity shop, DDC Events and #DDCTraining Centre.
In 2019, our work had over 1,600 beneficiaries across the 20 projects. We are very proud to be able to support over 130 other organisations with discounted first aid, food hygiene and health and safety courses, consultancy, minibus hire and hall hire.
THEN, in 2020, the Corona Virus pandemic impacted on the world and our operation had to be reconsidered.
The Denby Dale Centre department managers met on 16 March 2020 to plan closures of services and key trigger points that would help us decide how and when our connecting people activities would change. The following week lead to government guidance which brought new words into our day to day world such as #socialdistancing, #shielding and #selfisolating.
The last community social activity to stop was the #dementia social groups, which we tried to delay as the impact of stopping such a group would lead to their dementia irreversibly advancing. After only three weeks of closure, family members are reaching out for help as they are experiencing the dementia progressing for their loved ones. We are expecting a much reduced number of members to return to the group after the Corona Virus has passed.
Each volunteer, now entering their own social change, were assigned members to keep in touch with by telephone or using technology, especially with the dementia groups, where daily calls were established and liaisons with their carers and families to ensure a robust support mechanism. Weekly activity packs are posted out to the dementia group members to help occupy them and re-establish the routines they need in their lives.
The Volunteer Car Service is the only original service that continued during the social distancing and is now evolving into a prescription collection service.
Re-deploying staff to new services to continue our connecting people mission:
The charity developed a partnership and collaborative approach to providing services to address the needs of the community as connections started to be lost and isolation and the emotion of loneliness became common place. The first point of call was to start discussions with existing members to find out what they felt they may need, as they entered into their own self-isolation including many volunteers who fell into the vulnerable-to-the-virus group through age or ailment. The second discussion was with other nieghbouring group leaders to compare plans and intelligence.
Suddenly, competitiveness and guarding information between community groups was seen to drop and collaboration for survival became the necessary formula. Friends and trust grew further between organisations, and support to each other became more and more offered and accepted.
The next step was to contact the local authority, @KirkleesCouncil, to find out what plans were being put into place and how the local communities could help. Sunday afternoon on 15 March, a swift and short email was sent to one of the directors in the council and a reply was had within minutes. This council wanted some form of partnership or collaborative work and invited us and others to their tactical planning meeting for the following day.
The following week saw many meetings, suggestions, theories, guidance, and as each step of our progress was formed, an announcement from #Westminster seemed to force an adjustment to the plan. We felt part of, and a contributor to, discussions with the council and representatives of other community groups.
Our meetings were held at a distance or digitally, and some were outdoors, like the one with our training and development manager where we discussed distance learning whilst walking on open land, at a distance from each other, but with amazing views of #rural #Kirklees.
The outcome of what seemed at the time of endless meetings was a very rounded approach to delivering a service that would have over-stretched the council - the result was the council and the community working together, to support those self-isolating without a network.
The Denby Dale Centre found itself in a position to offer a Kirklees wide online and over the phone food ordering service, with the council helpline feeding into this service. This meant that those isolating due to vulnerable-to-the-virus characteristics who could afford food but did not have a network to obtain it could place an order.
Those who could not afford food could speak to the council Welfare Team who could arrange food deliveries for them. Food banks were being stretched especially as many of their volunteers were self-isolating.
The food orders collected by the charity would be split into the four places of the borough, with two Primary Care Network Community Anchors leading each group, and they in turn would take those orders and approach the 70 #MutualAid, pop-up organisations and established charities and associations, to request help from their volunteer teams.
This work means that local people help local people - promoting neighbourlyness to happen naturally.
The food ordering and delivery service is seen as a safeguarding and infection control mechanism, where cash is never handled and volunteers are safeguard checked. Food is ordered as a voucher scheme, in £5 denominations, and the volunteer tasked with sticking to budget, and using a pre-payment card system or top-up debit card.
Other services created include Chatterbox, a phone buddy or phone matching service, where folk in isolation can talk to folk in isolation. Another service, being used less, is a dog-walking service, however proving critical to those who did not have a network of support to help them.
In all, the staff of the Denby Dale Centre have all been reassigned to slightly different roles, but all very important roles. The transport logistics staff have all being involved with processing the food orders and other service requests, and assigning the orders to appropriate community leaders to cascade down to local groups. The local councillors have supported the projects and from their Ward Funding, given extra funding to allow additional staff to support volunteer registration and safeguarding processing and the other to coordinate local volunteer team coordination. A massively impacting @NET funding grant of £500 was awarded by #OneCommunity as we developed our technology to ensure people can still reach us.
In rural Kirklees, which is roughly half of the council area, the charities team set too to support any local group with admin and specifically volunteer processing. Three themes were discussed with groups:
In the first week, the volunteer support team processed over 150 volunteer registrations and completed safeguard checks, including DBS checks for regulated roles.
In all, it is estimated that in Kirklees, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 volunteers who have come forward to different groups to support local people who need help at this time. Many volunteers became annoyed that their offer of help was not being taken up, and groups continued to tell them that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that at present the requests for help are only few, because so many are in isolation in a planned way, and only a few are ordering milk and bread - in the coming months, the mass army of volunteers will become stretched as the need increases and the offers to help will decrease as the virus hits it's peak.
In the HD8 area of Kirklees, there are an amazing 20 volunteers for each household who are reaching out for help. In time, that ratio will change as the virus establishes itself in the area with an increased need and a reduced volunteer availability.
The admin team of the Denby Dale Centre established a virtual office a week before guidance to stay home, to avoid staff to cross-infect each other which would result in service losses. Cloud based storage, and using yet another new phrase in our daily lives, Zoom calls, where flow-charts and staff training into new roles became an absolute essential way to move forward to set up the services.
We appeal to callers to accept our teams are working from home, and family life is happening in the background, and to expect family noises. Generally, the families of our staff have appeared in Zoom calls and phone discussions, creating quite a humanity level of service and understanding which are representational to the difficult times for everyone.
Our Service Timeline:
14 March - people in need "visibility" and concept creation
16 March - tactical meeting with local authority
19 March - pilot food delivery service in rural area (50% of council area)
31 March - full service for full area of Kirklees
In #rural #Kirklees, we have a collaboration of 17 community groups working the same service as a collective team with no gaps in the areas - that is 42 villages and hamlets, of local people helping local people in our Last of the Summer Wine country.
Trust in the service by potential service users was in jeopardy from the start as social media reported scammers and doorstep crime by people posing to be part of groups and then taking opportuntity on our vulnerable neighbours. Kirklees council swiftly issued guidance to communities and people became more guarded, and trust in any offer of help actually wobbled. Because our services are integrated into the council offer, their signposting to the food delivery service helped people trust this project and take up the offer of help.
Our plans and operation have had resilience built into them, with staff isolating from each other to avoid office-cross-infection and with three levels of reserve staff for each role in case illness takes anyone out of the admin system.
Our story is one of courage, trust, co-production, co-operation, neighbourliness, gratitude, level-thinking and above all, listening. This story is from an amazing and strong "community of communities", with neighbours seeing their neighbours with more clarity, with more time to say, "...hi, how are you today..." from across the gardens. This is turning into a story where at last, people are becoming aware of what loneliness feels like; the start of empathy to our neighbours who used to be strangers.
We believe that this is a story, not of a time where the country was on it's knees, but of a trigger to the time when the country held each other with regard and generosity, the start of the time of us #knowingourneighbours and our fight to #endloneliness.