RotherFed have been part of the overall community support programme targeting those most in need in our communities, initially through the Rotherham Heroes campaign and Community Hub, but also through providing support to our network of TARA’s and community groups. Our CEO has been involved in the multi-agency response and the Rotherham Tactical Group that work together to respond to community needs. As part of our involvement in the Rotherham Heroes campaign, we took a lead role in helping to shape and organise Friendship Calls to the most isolated and lonely people across the borough, culminating in the creation of a Befriending Providers Network that is Chaired by our CEO and meet monthly to improve outcomes for local people who are lonely and isolated.
Read our full Covid Response below:
By Rob Gooding, Community Organiser
The project began when Winston contacted RotherFed saying he wanted to make the community feel better at Christmas. This was because of the pandemic and children would not get to see Santa Claus at the local amenities and festive attractions due to the COVID restrictions at the time. So we worked with Winston to create a Santa Grotto Online that would be free for all families to enjoy. We sourced Santa a fancy new red suit for the occasion and supported him to catch up on his IT skills. This is because Santa was okay at using technology but needed some support from RotherFed to adapt to the task at hand.
The project had adhered to strict safeguarding procedures and we worked with Winston to ensure that these were followed throughout the 3-day project. We were pleased that there was no incident where the procedures had been broken throughout. Winston’s performance as Santa Claus was great and he really enjoyed playing the part. He was very enthusiastic on each call and he just pleased that he had been able to make some families happy by seeing Santa Claus before Christmas.
This was Winston’s second Christmas event with RotherFed and will probably not be the last. Overall the event managed to engage with 46 individuals in total across East Dene, Dinnington and East Herringthorpe. Most of the community members who participated in the event were all new engagements for the area. The event managed to engage with 12 people from the East Dene area, 21 from Dinnington and 13 from East Herringthorpe. Families enjoyed the online experience and had thanked Santa and his helpful elves for a Christmassy event when Christmas didn’t feel quite the same. A massive thanks to Winston and all his enthusiasm to cheer up his community.
Shelia has been involved with Rotherham Federation for many years now and although I have heard Shelia mentioned in passing until recently, I have not had any direct contact with her. Since moving to the North of the Borough at the end of October 2020 I have spoken to Shelia on many occasions and have now got to know her much better.
Shelia is a very active member and volunteer who is part of both Swinton Community Focus group and Crafty Ladies. She does a great deal for others despite sometimes suffering with her own health. Shelia has just re-engaged with the Housing Involvement Panel meetings and has expressed an interest in becoming involved in the Housing Hubs and with coffee mornings.
During the summer months of lockdown Shelia started chair aerobics outside in the street for people to join in with her, this was very successful, and everyone enjoyed it. Shelia is now working with Active Dearne to deliver the chair aerobics online. RMBC are running a piece on wellness in the next edition of Home Matters and Shelia will feature in this.
Swinton Community Focus Group ran a Christmas Give A Gift for the underprivileged children in the area and not only were they overwhelmed by gifts, they also received over £1000 in donations. As all this money wasn’t used, they will now do a Easter egg hunt at Easter and purchase Easter eggs with the leftover money to give out as prizes.
Shelia also has weekly contact with other members of both groups where they do crafts/play games etc online, making sure everyone is well and keeping in touch with each other where possible.
I am looking forward to working more closely with Shelia and getting involved in her area, especially when the lockdown has eased more.
Jack was referred to the service in November, he was a little unsure about engaging with the service. He is partially sighted and lives on his own. Jack has lived a colourful life working down the pit for 35 years before living in Cyprus for many years. A cheeky chap that would suit a local volunteer as he enjoys talking about local monuments etc.
Jack was allocated to one of our new volunteers Gill, following the first call we received feedback from Gill who was over the moon and asked if she could contact Jack again. I spoke with Jack who was equally enthusiastic about speaking again with Gill, he said “an hour passed in a blink of the eye and the dreaded Covid was not mentioned once, which was a blessing, was nice to just talk to someone normally” he added, “the conversation just flowed as we moved from topic to topic.” Jack may have been sceptical, but he is certainly enjoying the calls now.
Charlotte is a young 24 year old council tenant referred from Roundabout. Charlotte lives on her own and suffers with mental health and drug abuse. After my initial call to Charlotte, she seemed reluctant to talk or engage. I got her to start talking about animals and Africa and this enthralled her. She started to open up to me and an hour later we had built a good rapport. I promised that I would ring her a week later, which I did. She was eagerly anticipating my call and we had a great chat again. At the end of the call she informed me that it was so nice to be able to speak to someone who does not judge her or wants to offer advice. She openly discusses her thoughts with me. She has told me that she is so happy that she can receive these calls as she feels totally isolated and alone.
I received a text from her thanking me and that she is really looking forward to receiving another call on Monday. Because of her drug abuse and mental health, she will remain with me.
Christina first became involved with RotherFed through the RotherSteps project, this was to help her lose weight and improve her fitness. During the project she has regularly input her steps and posted pictures of her walks. So far over the seven weeks of the project she has entered an amazing 315,882 steps so far in the project and came in third place in the first month with a massive 242,108. During conversations with Christina, she has mentioned how difficult it is as woman to walk in local beauty spots alone due to the dark nights at this time of year and has spoken about starting a walking group in Greasbrough when COVID restrictions ease.
As Christina found out about more of RotherFed’s projects she became interested in the befriending calls and has since signed up as a befriending volunteer and will start making regular calls to lonely and vulnerable people as soon as her DBS has returned. This is an ongoing project to tackle loneliness in Rotherham where we match volunteers to people that have requested a friendship call.
Christina has expressed an interest in getting further involved with council services and I am currently discussing options on how she can get involved in Housing Involvement Panel meetings and putting community projects ideas into RMBC through the housing hub suggestions.
Jepsy speaks in broken English as she is Spanish. She joined back in October 2020. She has a young family so does up to 3 calls a week. Jepsy has grown in confidence and has no problems communicating with the participants. Her English is improving all the time and she is really enjoying the conversations. She has one participant who she calls weekly and two others which she alternates. “Was able to speak with MW, she was very happy and we were talking about her daughter’s profession, and she also told me about the coronavirus vaccine, Mrs. MW has an amazing memory, because she remembers many things, when I told her she laughed a lot.”
Jepsy continues to call participants and even with the added pressure of home schooling, she is still keeping consistent with a few calls and looks forward to increasing when things return to some degree of normality.
By Jane Owen, Volunteer Coordinator
This volunteer started her volunteering with us back in the first lockdown. She had a very traumatic experience in her life and this still impacts on her daily life. She was allocated a lady to call who has severe mental health issues, schizophrenia and severe depression. After the first call of the week, the volunteer found out that this lady was very much on a down with her depression. Because of this the volunteer rang her every day just to enquire how she was. It was only after the fact that the volunteer called me to inform that she had kept in touch with this lady during the week. Because of the volunteers past and the calls made to the participant the volunteer found her own past intruding on her again and called me. As I had recently completed the mental first aid course, and because of my background I was able to offer the volunteer the support needed and followed up with a phone call to the participant who was so grateful that she had someone to talk too outside of her professional support.
The following day I received a lovely email from the volunteer;
Thank you for your much appreciated support yesterday. I hope you too have someone you can turn to if you ever need to.’
Susan originally came through to us from RDASH and was their first referral into the friendship calls. Susan is a very complicated case in that she is currently undergoing a transition from male to female. Suffers with affective schizophrenia, has delusions and Asperger’s syndrome. Susan has no confidence in herself or in the system and feels that she is often persecuted because of her choices. She has been ostracised by her family and has no friends. She doesn’t go out except when necessary to get food etc. My initial conversation with Susan went very well, and she did respond to me albeit a little guarded. Her comment was that it was going to be lovely to be able to speak to someone on a friendly level and hoped that I would ring her back. I followed up with a report back to the referrer from RDASH, which prompted a response thanking me for my professionalism and for taking Susan on, this has been discussed with the referrers other colleagues and has resulted in us starting to get more referrals from them.
I followed up a week later with another call to Susan who was totally surprised to hear from me saying that she did not expect me to call her back, and I explained that I enjoyed talking with her and that she would always get a call from me every week. She was so touched and after having a great chat about food, dreams and the general state of affairs, she burst into tears and thanks me profusely at the end of the call for just treating her like a normal person. I made arrangement to follow up again a week later. This week, she was so much more open with me and has started to trust me now by sharing her session with me that she had with her psychiatrist. This was a massive step for Susan who does not like talking about her issues due to not being able to trust anyone. We are now building a steady relationship and her trust and confidence is increasing.
I have known Peter for a couple of years now as her originally wanted to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, but he found the training to be too daunting and he dropped out. Peter is a highly intelligent man that used to be a chemical engineer for TATA steel. He started to develop mental health issues, ODC and other problems and had to give up his job. He is an avid painter. He lost all of his confidence and was worried when he approached me again as a volunteer. After offering him reassurance that the training and induction was a lot easier than previously – he decided to give the friendship call volunteer role a go with a lot of support from me. He was extremely nervous to make his first calls, so we allocated Peter people that we thought he would find easy to communicate with. After his first calls, he rang me and was so proud of what he had achieved, he couldn’t stop saying what it meant to him to be able to give something to people and that he had an enjoyed it more than he expected. He immediately build a rapport with one of his service users, so much so that after a follow up with her, she has asked if he could continue calling her as she found him to be such a lovely person ‘he feels like an angel to me, and I am sure if I met him, he would be wearing a halo’ I reported back to Peter what had been said, and he was so happy so say that he would be very willing to continue calling this lady and they are now building a great relationship and Peter’s confidence is growing from strength to strength.