A friendly voice calling for a regular chat has made all the difference to elderly residents of Solihull. National Grid Metering has partnered with Age UK Solihull through the lockdowns, to bring a bit of joy into lonely and vulnerable people’s lives.
“I am 88. I’m on my own all the time, so to have a telephone call is really nice. My volunteer caller is so lovely and it was super to have a lovely conversation as it broke up the long days. It is very important to me.” – Doreen
“When you are on your own with no transport and unable to get out and about, the days are so long and I felt isolated. Just to have a friendly call is a real lift-up and makes me feel that someone cares.” – Kay
“I suffer from very bad anxiety and during lockdown it’s been a real big boost-up to have someone call me regularly. I could have a good chat about any problems I was having and how I was feeling, and it was great to be able to chat to someone friendly who was good company for me. My volunteer has taught me how to use WhatsApp and I enjoy using this now. It was just so comforting to have a friend on the end of the telephone line.” – Delphine
Doreen, Kay and Delphine are just three of the people National Grid Metering has helped over the past year, since the Coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
Members of National Grid Metering’s employee-led Community Focus Group have made over 2,700 welfare calls on behalf of Age UK Solihull, the local charity for older people.
“It’s horribly lonely being separated from your friends and family, with no contact with the outside world,” says Chantelle Bogira, a member of the Community Focus Group.”
Now National Grid Metering has been shortlisted in a new ‘giving something back’ category in the annual European Contact Call Centres Service Awards.
The relationship with Age UK Solihull began in Christmas 2019, when colleagues from National Grid Metering hosted a Christmas lunch outing and carol singing in their office for local elderly residents. When the coronavirus lockdown started, Age UK Solihull asked for help with their welfare calls, to support their clients who were feeling isolated, vulnerable and anxious. National Grid Metering’s Community Focus Group responded to support those most at need, as swiftly and safely as possible.
Conversations quickly became the highpoint of the day – not just for those who were most vulnerable, but also for those National Grid Metering colleagues making the calls. These touchpoint calls provided reassurance for Age UK Solihull that local elderly people’s wellbeing and immediate concerns, or need for food and prescriptions, were being met.
“But we soon saw real trust developing with rich conversations and friendship, just by giving our time,” says Chantelle. “As they say, kindness costs nothing. In fact, two colleagues have found it so rewarding that they’ve volunteered to do more telephone befriending through the charity.”
As a result of this community-spirited initiative, 45 elderly people have felt someone cared and had their days lifted during the long days, weeks and months of lockdown.
Alongside these calls, the Community Focus Group provided additional support by supplying weekly food shopping to Age UK Solihull from Waitrose Solihull, who offered the volunteers critical worker shopping hours.
Over 500 people received food parcels during those eight weeks, which included drawings made by some of the staff’s children, to lift morale and let those people know that they were not forgotten.
Age UK Solihull was also struggling to get PPE and hand sanitiser gel, so the team helped supply 940 masks and 6 litres of hand sanitiser to their frontline staff.
Now National Grid Metering is sponsoring the distribution of digital tablets to elderly residents eager to regain some independence. They’ll be shown how to do their own food shopping and home banking using the tablets and even how to facetime with grandchildren.
Chantelle says: “Our Community Focus Group is so proud to know that we have supported our local community and it was absolutely the right thing to do – leading with the heart, staying connected and driving positive change.”
Commenting on the support from National Grid Metering, Lucy Garratt, Director of Services at Age UK Solihull, says: “We could not have met or continue to meet the needs of older people without the support of our local communities and local businesses, including the fantastic support we have received from National Grid.
“Chantelle Bogira has led the way for National Grid, with support from colleagues and managers, and from the start has ensured we have enough of the right type of food and essentials to provide isolating older and vulnerable people.”