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Communicare prepares for surge in calls if country locks down

A SOUTHAMPTON charity helping the city’s isolated and lonely says it is coping at the moment but is expecting an unprecedented demand for its services if the country goes into lockdown (March 2020).

Communicare is urging people to volunteer now to help others in their community with essential supplies and support if the Coronavirus situation worsens.

Manager of the charity, Annie Clewlow says: “We’re facing a number of challenges. Many of our volunteers are in vulnerable situations being aged either 70 plus, or they have an underlying health condition, so they rightly need to self-isolate now, as per the Government’s and health experts’ recommendations.

“We’re, of course, taking all this very seriously, but it is putting a strain on what we can offer our service users, who are also mainly elderly and have mental and physical wellbeing issues too.”

Communicare is a friendly, neighbourhood charity that wants to eradicate loneliness and isolation in Southampton with the assistance of its band of Communiteers, who volunteer to give their time freely.

“At the moment we’re coping well with the current demands we have for our services but we’re bracing ourselves and would love to hear from anyone who can help.

“The sort of assistance people can provide is simple. Even just making a phone call from your home to someone in theirs on a regular basis would help.”

Communicare’s Good Neighbours’ Network supports nearly 400 individuals/families annually, covering more than 2,300 tasks including one-to-one befriending, transport to activities, such as the regular lunch clubs and tea parties it hosts and shopping for, or with, those it helps. All the assistance offered is free to users, although beneficiaries are invited to make a donation if they are able, and Communiteers are offered expenses.

“We have had volunteers kindly stepping up and taking on more and are, in many cases, prepared to undertake activities that aren’t part of their normal responsibilities to help us maintain support for our service users.

“We’re asking existing Communiteers what their individual situations are and what they can do to help us fill the gaps we have. We’ve stopped all one-to-one visiting where necessary, as this is no longer appropriate, and we’re offering people different support options to replace this.

“But we still need more volunteers, as we’re expecting unprecedented calls and requests for our help in the coming weeks, may be months, especially if the country goes into a lockdown situation. If we’re all in isolation anyone who lives alone will be the loneliest, so if you are likely to be in this situation you would be helping others, as well as potentially giving yourself some essential socialisation in the process, by volunteering to telephone one of our service users.”

“We’re trying to make sure we continue to offer service users transportation to important engagements, such as medical appointments. Or when they need to go and get money from the bank, so they have cash at home for shopping and other necessities. We’re trying to continue with any support we give people with their shopping, whether we take them out to shop, if appropriate, or where our volunteers go shopping for them.

“Anyone who has recently volunteered for us, we’re fast tracking their application and our recruitment process. We’re getting references and DBS checks done as quickly as we can, so we have more volunteers operational in the coming weeks.

“Anyone wishing to volunteer to make regular phone calls, will go through our recruitment process, with all the same policies applying as normal.

“Our office-based staff are working, when applicable, from home. However, due to the nature of the services we provide, we can’t totally do this. Members of the team who are in a vulnerable group are working from home completely. The remaining team are involved in a rota system and are working some of the time in the office, and some of the time at home, so our office is staffed when open.

“For the time being we’ve cancelled all our events including our regular lunch clubs, as well as all gatherings, meetings and fundraisers, apart from really essential get togethers.”

To find out more about volunteering, please call 023 8021 6023, visit follow the charity on Twitter at @Communicare_SO or log on to

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