More than 5,000 FCHO customers benefit from caring welfare calls during lockdown

MORE than 5,000 First Choice Homes Oldham customers have benefited from caring welfare calls during the coronavirus pandemic.

The housing association’s staff has phoned 5,047 customers to make sure they are safe and well since the government introduced measures in March to help tackle the virus.

Customers aged 70 and over as well as those who are vulnerable and isolated received the calls during the lockdown as part of FCHO’s response to the pandemic.

Making sure customers have enough food, helping those with financial problems, supporting customers’ well-being or just having a good chat are just some of the ways staff have been making a difference.

Bev Bertenshaw, Community Impact Manager, who organised the welfare calls programme said: “There were many different issues identified through the calls.

“Some customers have wanted straightforward advice or have just been happy to have a friendly chat.

“Others may have struggled with food or shopping. In such instances, some customers have been given access to our affordable food offer (The Bread and Butter Thing). Others been provided with food bank vouchers or put into contact with local food delivery services.

“In some cases, where customers aren’t able to get out, we have arranged to deliver groceries.

“We’re linking in with the borough coronavirus response hubs to match customers with support from other agencies in Oldham too.

“Our community impact advisors have also been dealing with one-off enquiries from customers about financial issues, for example being unable to pay electricity bills or heat their home.

“Other customers have seen their employment impacted and have been referred to our Directions employment service.

“Feedback from customers about the welfare calls has been overwhelmingly positive, with people and their families appreciative of the support, which has been great to hear.”

Making thousands of phone calls to customers is no mean feat and resource has come from right across the business, including from teams which were redeployed when government restrictions meant their work changed.

Ross Taylor from FCHO’s Neighbourhood Care team would ordinarily have been on duty cutting grass during the spring but got involved in the welfare calls programme.

He said: “I checked in with our customers to see how they were they doing, then ask if they needed any help with things like gas, electric, food, picking up medication and so on and pass the information on our relevant teams so they could give them more support.

“Even if my customers didn’t need any specific help, sometimes they just needed a chat because they hadn’t seen anyone for such a long time.

“It’s been a difficult period for many people and I’m pleased to have played my part in delivering this important support.”

The welfare calls programme is continuing by colleagues in FCHO’s Community Impact and Independence teams as other colleagues have returned to their day jobs.

Bev said: “The team effort to deliver the programme has been amazing. To achieve so many calls and provide so much support in a short period of time is fantastic.

“I had a phenomenal response from colleagues all wanting to do their bit and it speaks volumes about the caring people we have here in our organisation – thank you!”

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