CHARITIES from Suffolk are appealing for the support of businesses across the county, in helping elderly and vulnerable people stay connected with crucial lifelines during the pandemic.
Suffolk Family Carers, ACE Anglia and Suffolk User Forum have identified dozens of individuals who are at risk of missing out on key service provision, or losing all family contact, because of a lack of technology and communication devices.
Alongside a number of other charities, the organisations have been battling on a daily basis to help vulnerable groups deal with a lack of tablets, laptops and mobile phones, as well as 4G or broadband – all of which would help individuals stay in touch, order groceries, or request repeat prescriptions.
The lack of technological devices also means such groups are at risk of missing out on key services and resources available in the community, because they are not able to search the internet.
Participation in the government’s new track and trace initiative will also be prohibitive.
Kirsten Alderson, CEO of Suffolk Family Carers, believes local businesses could play a key part in ensuring vulnerable individuals and households were better supported at this challenging time.
She said: “It’s very easy to assume that everyone has access to the internet these days, or that they can be in touch with friends and family via smartphones and tablet devices.
“The reality is, this simply isn’t the case. Every day we’re speaking to families or individuals who are being deprived of resources, or further isolated in their own lives, because of a lack of technology and communication.
“It would make the world of difference if we could encourage businesses within the county to play a part in helping us at this time of need.”
Some of the ways in which businesses might look to support the initiative, include:
- Donate equipment such as smart phones, tablets or laptops for vulnerable users. This could be used, but ideally would be new.
- Provide technical support services to help configure phones to meet specific user needs or a ‘helpdesk’ to walk people through any basic problems
- Prepare training materials for individuals who are learning how to use technology for the first time. This could take the form of a webinar or be face to face via zoom/MS teams etc
- Provide funding to allow the ongoing connection of the devices to mobile or broadband providers
Andrea Clark, of Ace Anglia, commented: “The Suffolk Learning Disability strategy promotes people living a good ordinary life with the right support at the right time.
“Ace Anglia believe that access to, and the use of technology is vital to support people with a learning disability and or Autism ‘to live good ordinary lives’.”
Jayne Stevens, of Suffolk User Forum, added: “We have completely changed the way we provide our support and know how vital regular contact is for the people who we reach out to.
“Whilst many of us are finding this a stressful time, for people living with mental health problems the impact of isolation can be almost unbearable.
We need to remember that many people cannot afford a smartphone, tablet or laptop and these are essential for staying connected with friends, family, professionals and for accessing online resources.
We are concerned that some of the people who need support most, are the ones missing out. That’s where the wider community can help.” If you or your business can help, please contact Richard Smale on 07976 722629