Connect Me (1)

Connect Me: Supporting the community in Jersey

Published: 14/06/2021

Author: Sally Haine

Jersey, an island with a population of 107,000, has a unique culture with a rich and diverse voluntary, community and faith sector.

In March 2020, as this small community moved at pace towards full lockdown, there was a realisation that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to create an increased need for support in the community, especially for high-risk and isolated Islanders.

We identified four main areas of focus:

  • accessible communication
  • support for organisations
  • coordination of volunteers
  • access to emotional and practical support.

From this, Connect Me was created; a service set up to lead Islanders to local support including help with food supplies, accommodation, financial support and access to wellbeing services.

The emphasis throughout was to ensure that lockdown did not prevent access to our essential voluntary and community sector, avoided crisis and reduced pressure on emergency services.

How Connect Me was set up

The service, which can be accessed online or by phone, offers tailored information for Islanders and brings together a range of voluntary and community sector organisations and government services.

The team is made up of members of staff from our library, where Islanders already go to access information and advice. Although individuals will often access the service with an initial problem or deficit, the emphasis of this approach is to focus on compassionate, collaborative, preventative and sustainable ways of addressing each situation.

Our staff work with individuals to identify their personal needs, interests, and existing community networks. Staff then connect individuals to community activities and services which will support them and invest in their long-term wellbeing.

How we're supporting people in Jersey

Many of the calls received, particularly in the early days of lockdown, have been both distressing and heartbreaking.

We’ve had numerous elderly Islanders whose access to their usual social networks and hot food provision had disappeared overnight, a young father left homeless after a relationship breakdown and a job loss, a distressed woman with a dog who needed walking and her father with dementia who couldn’t be left alone, a family trying to juggle home schooling, and a young teenager in a mental health crisis.

It was, and still is, vital to have this instant access to a vast wealth of contacts, support and up to date information on services and activities that are available in Jersey. For instance we have been publishing which grocery shops are offering a delivery service for people self-isolating, and linked people to dog walking services for people who are unable to leave home.

For people alone and feeling isolated, we organised for them to be telephoned for a regular chat, and provided essential food for people who needed support.

A local adult social worker said:

'Thank you so much for your amazing research for my client. I am so grateful, and so mortified that I had so little faith.'

Connect Me has coordinated a range of resources. This has included access to; an emergency foodbank, extra housing and safeguarding support, online education resources, delivery of library books directly to Islanders, and free and low cost online and outdoor activity classes.

A Connect Me team leader said:

'To be able to use our skills to the benefit of the community in these extreme times is both a privilege and a genuine pleasure. After a couple of calls, you feel like an old friend, as the person you are calling is pleased to hear from you.'

What next

It is widely acknowledged that this pandemic will likely cast a long shadow, in terms of how it continues to impact our community, both individually and economically. However, there are many positive new ways of working born out of this, and we should seek to continue and develop these further.

As we move forward, we plan to develop this initiative into a longer-term community service. We are keen to continue investing and building on the partnership working model, while moving towards expanding the service. Not just by focusing on challenges born out of the pandemic, but by further developing capacity at an individual and community level, in a way that is both empowering and sustainable.

Working together

This unique time has demonstrated that we can achieve so much more by working together, and that investing in developing more sustainable support can lead to a far more positive experience for Islanders.

The pandemic has not only challenged our assumptions of what is needed to keep people safe, happy, and well in our community, but also of what makes a difference to individual’s daily lives and their overall wellbeing.

The role of community organisations in keeping us safe and well is hugely powerful and significant, and to move forward, we need only look to the unique strengths and assets that already exist in our community.

 

Sally Haine

Sally Haine

Sally Haine is Local Services Manager for the Government of Jersey. Her role focuses on developing partnerships between the government, voluntary and community sector organisations and parishes, to deliver services and activities in community locations to make it easier for Islanders of all ages to access them. With a background in nursing Sally has a keen interest in the development of partnered holistic services that focus on early intervention and prevention in the community.

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