20,000 calls to end loneliness during pandemic working alongside the voluntary sector

Almost 500 new volunteers joined the ‘Good Neighbours’ scheme helping support vulnerable people by shopping for them and spending time talking to them at their front door or garden gate.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic they delivered almost 2,000 food boxes and made almost 2,000 shopping trips for people; almost 20,000 check-in phone calls were also made by council staff redeployed to help people who were encouraged to shield.

The ‘Good Neighbours’ (GN) scheme, run by local charity organisation VODA, has provided support to 1,778 shielding residents, including shopping services, click & collect, prescription collection and delivery, delivering food parcels, and telephone buddies.

North Tyneside Council, local charities and the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which fall into the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, worked with VODA to adapt the GN scheme during the pandemic, using existing volunteers as well as furloughed staff from local businesses.

The GN scheme previously offered help for local residents with tasks such as changing lightbulbs, tidying gardens and small DIY assistance, however quickly adapted to offer a wider range of services aimed at reducing loneliness and ensuring isolated people had access to necessities.

Between the beginning of lockdown in March 2020 – June 2020, regular phone calls were made, following training, to problem solve with the person receiving the support. Whilst the service continued it was scaled back over the summer of 2020 and then re-introduced from November 2020 to March 2021 with over 16,000 North Tyneside residents on the “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” list and advised to shield.

In addition to the phone calls and other support everyone identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable was sent copies of two different publications both developed to share details of the wide range of support available and give practical help and support to help navigate live as the shielding restrictions eased.

This included advice and support when going shopping, visiting their GP or ways to looking after their mental wellbeing.

The GN scheme also identified that shielding residents had no access to their cash and developed a system where they could make payments to the council, allowing a volunteer to go shopping on behalf of the resident, delivering the shopping and any change.

North Tyneside council took 1,893 payments, turning £82,874 into petty cash so that volunteers could go shopping for their residents.

Following the positive impact the GN scheme had on local residents during COVID-19 pandemic, North Tyneside CCG are looking at how to invest remaining funding from a three-year 2018 voluntary, charity and social enterprise (VCSE) grants programme in 2018 to reduce loneliness and isolation.