It’s everywhere in the media, isn’t it – loneliness. Magnified by the pandemic, it’s fast becoming its own epidemic. We’re just not made for isolation; it’s that simple. Of course, that’s why there are so many incredible stories about how people and communities have pulled closer in the crisis: being together is our natural instinct. Mother Teresa called loneliness the most terrible poverty.
Thankfully, at least up in Barnsley, there is someone who works everyday to help with this. CEO of Barnsley’s Crossroads Caring for Carers and Great British Care Awards Covid Hero nominee, Joseph David, understands the problem and works tirelessly on solutions:
“Loneliness is a terrible thing – you can call people and ask how they’re getting on and they’ll often just say yes, okay because they don’t want to burden you. So I started welfare visits – just going to someone’s home to visually perceive if they really are okay. We do come across people who say they’re fine and then we visit and can see they look run down. So then we began bringing food packages, joining up with other charities and it worked really well.”
But of course, it all takes funding and Joseph has become an application expert.
Some of the care provided is commissioned by the local authority which means that if Joseph’s staff go in for an hour to do personal care, that client likely won’t see anyone again until the following morning. Joseph asked funders if there was any way they could give more:
“I got extra funding to use just to have a chat – actually have time to find out how the person is…. look at their hobbies and interests – utilise the carers own skills and interests to bring to bear. And in that way, not only are you the carer but you become a friend. And we tell things to our friends in the way we won’t with strangers.”
Also, realising there was nothing going on at weekends, Joseph set up a Dementia Cafe. He spoke to other sector charities and asked for their support; they all thought it was a brilliant idea because it would give carers a chance to come along too. A friend lent him a venue.
“The space was fantastic but there were a lot of challenges! We followed all the guidelines and organised transport there and back. It went really well until lockdown happened again and it had to stop. But all the hard work was worth it because if you can make someone happy, that’s what matters to me.”
Funding is a lifeline for the charity and he has made a study of it – how to produce successful applications because that is essentially the biggest challenge. He reads about funders and analyses what they want to bring to the community and works on making a match especially providing evidence of what was successful with the last funding.
Joseph wears many hats, if not coats, and has a simple philosophy when it comes to people and care:
“Whenever I have cared for someone, I tell myself I am a friend. You care for someone better when you think that way. I share this philosophy with my team. Hard work pays off to see someone happy. It’s not just about helping someone dress – be their friend because then you’re more likely to discover what makes them happy. And if you can make them happy for even 10 minutes out of 24 hours, you’re on the right road.”
And it’s working well – this marriage of funding and friendship: Joseph just found out that Yorkshire Sports have agreed to give £10,000 to fund chair exercises in the homes of yet more isolated and lonely clients…