28 September 2020

A week in the life of our befriending and outreach team


When social distancing measures were enforced in the UK, our befriending and outreach team had a creative solution to the suspension of their face-to-face services: a telephone support offer. Since moving to remote assistance, the service has been a beacon of hope for over 150 people, providing them with the support needed to live well in their homes. 

To mark National Older Persons' Day on Sunday 4 October, five members of the team have come together to describe one day of their week working as an Octavia support worker. From welfare checks and social calls, to virtual activities and signpost support, their work is fostering community and connections at a time when they are needed most.

‘Your phone calls are a lifeline to me – they are the only connection I have to the outside world’

Sakiya has worked for Octavia for over ten years. Starting her journey as a Senior Support worker at an extra care scheme, she moved to a community-based role in the outreach team in 2018.

“I start my day by calling clients – checking in with them to see how they are bearing up and if there is anything they need. Each call takes place at a time they have chosen to avoid any clashes with other visits or phone calls. I follow up my welfare checks with signposting support, sending referrals out to food banks and other third-party services. Today I spoke to a lady who told me that her asthma was making her feel breathless and affecting her sleep. I knew that I needed to escalate the issue to her GP and was relieved when her doctor arranged to send a nurse out to her home.

“Before the pandemic, all my interactions with service users took place in their homes. Speaking to people face-to-face has its advantages but conducting appointments over the phone has reduced the time I spend travelling every day, allowing more time for me to speak to each individual. I reserve my afternoons for longer calls with those that appreciate the social contact. Earlier this week, a 94-year-old lady said to me: ‘your phone calls are a lifeline to me – they are the only connection I have to the outside world’.”

As with all outreach services, the team have had to be innovative in adapting their service delivery. Adept at thinking outside the box, Sakiya has fully embraced the service’s new format and everything that comes with it.

“One of the main challenges has been finding new ways to provide assistance. Many of the people we support require help filling in forms, reading letters and sending text messages. For example, a lady I support has a lot of hospital appointments and feels very anxious when she receives reminder texts. To help her manage and cope with this stress, I’ve asked her to forward these texts onto me so that I can read them out over the phone and explain what she needs to do next.”

Recounting the positive outcomes achieved for local people, Sakiya believes working together has been a defining quality of the team’s approach.

“During a Friday morning call, I spoke to a lady who didn’t have enough food for the weekend”, Sakiya recalls. “Before the crisis I would have completed the food shop myself, but social distancing restrictions meant this was no longer possible. I notified a colleague in a different team and thanks to her relationship with Paddington foodbank, she was able to arrange a parcel delivery that same day. Since then she has also helped to find long-term support for this client. I am embracing continuing this way of working during the next phase of the crisis and beyond.”