The last 2 months have been a real challenge for our helpline – I’ve been running The Silver Line helpline for 3 and a half years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Our callers were lonely and isolated without the coronavirus outbreak, but they are now telling us they feel even more anxious and unsure of the world.
We’ve seen our call volumes jump 30% due to the pandemic, and almost all callers are talking about it. They are afraid of dying alone, afraid of asking for help in case they are taking it from someone more in need, worried about empty shelves in shops, and they are overwhelmed by the news and information about the virus. We’ve also seen in the last week or so they are starting to get more concerned and wondering when they will be allowed out again.
We’ve had to change the way we work to make sure we can still support our callers – our Blackpool helpline is now a “virtual” operation with staff working from home so that they can protect themselves and their families. And we’ve had some fantastic help in doing this, with a generous donation of laptops and kit from Dixons Carphone, and support from Amazon for their Amazon Connect solution. But we couldn’t have made sure the service continued without the hard work of our staff and those from Age UK. When we were faced with the possibility of the helpline not being available due to the coronavirus, it was the callers and their stories that meant we knew we couldn’t let them down – being there for all those lonely older people who need a friendly voice at the end of the phone, day or night.
One caller told us last week, “You are my lifeline” – and from what our callers are telling us we are needed more than ever before.