Leeds community and charity organisations still here to help

Days after the NHS in Leeds issued a reminder that they are open for business, community and charity organisations in the city are issuing a similar reminder to local people.

Forum Central, the representative body for the health and wellbeing Third Sector (a collective term for community and voluntary organisations), is joining forces with NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and Leeds Older People’s Forum to issue the reminder. This follows concern that people may be vulnerable and missing out on getting support to help them manage during the coronavirus pandemic.

Using the same approach as the #NHSHereForYou campaign launched by the NHS in Leeds last week, Forum Central is reminding people that community support is still here for people.

While some organisations have had to limit their work or are focusing on the volunteering effort through Voluntary Action Leeds in partnership with Leeds City Council to deliver vital services during the pandemic, many continue to offer help for people when they need it the most. This can include help with mental health and wellbeing, reducing social isolation and loneliness, offering access to key essentials and support for those who have difficulties communicating or mobility issues.

The reminder comes as some community groups are experiencing a fall in the number of calls to their services with people not aware that support is still available over the phone or through online options as well as face to face where appropriate.

Rachel Cooper, Chief Executive for Leeds Older People’s Forum, said: “We all know that these are extraordinary times for everyone, with the country in lockdown it’s important that people don’t forget they can still access help through local charities and community groups. Just like the NHS, we want to remind people that support from charity and community organisations is still available to them especially when they need help with non-medical issues. A number of community organisations offer health and wellbeing support and they’re still open and continue to provide support.”

Pip Goff, Director at Forum Central commented: “We are worried that people who may be vulnerable such as those with learning disabilities, those who have sensory impairments or those who have difficulties getting out feel very isolated and at risk. We want to reassure them, and their carers, that we are still here and very much open for business. You can find out more about changes to local services on our website www.forumcentral.org.uk

Tim Ryley, Chief Executive for NHS Leeds CCG, added: “Last week we issued a reminder that the NHS is here for you and a national campaign was launched over the weekend to emphasise the need for people to seek help when they need it. It’s important that we also remind people of the exceptional support our community, voluntary and charity partners in the city can offer them. If you need help with anything and have accessed support from our local community and charity partners, please continue to get in touch with them.”

The #NHSHereForYou campaign includes information on when people should access emergency care or contact their GP practice, find out more www.leedsccg.nhs.uk/HereForYou

To find out more about community, voluntary and charity support organisations please visit www.forumcentral.org.uk

Case Studies

Case study one: Café Leep

“Wow I’ve just been in tears. I rang one of our members to tell her I have an iPad for her and her staff started crying saying how amazing we all are and can’t thank us enough!”

“I love the chair exercise session with Helen, Helen has such a calming and relaxing voice, Thank you x”

Just two out of hundreds of thankful, emotional and positive online messages from people with learning disabilities who have connected via social media and Leep1’s online Facebook group during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite facing the challenge of having to close the Leep1 café, Café Leep, where people with learning disabilities work and train to NVQ level before moving on to employment, the small but extraordinary team have managed to set up an online Facebook group and are now connecting over 200 members across a range of weekly activities.

This success comes amidst a host of internal pressures and obstacles that the organisation faces including: furloughing staff, financial uncertainty, members experiencing mental health difficulties and isolation, online abuse, needing the right information, getting people online who weren’t before, needing more technology and digital exclusion for the most isolated. With these obstacles considered, the work the team has done in such a short space of time is amazing but also highlights some of the social and health inequalities already present and faced by people with learning disabilities in our communities. Leep1 are not alone, though. Leeds has a tight network of brilliant learning disability organisations, linked through Forum Central, all of whom are working in similar ways to respond quickly to the rapidly changing environment and pressures.

For more information visit the Café Leep Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/cafeleep/ or follow them on Twitter @CafeLeep

Case study two: Association of Blind Asians

Association of Blind Asians, a citywide charitable organisation which has been running for over 30 years and aims to provide people with visual impairments from diverse cultural backgrounds with the support they need to live independent and fulfilling lives, is working hard to remain connected with their members, offering support via regular welfare checks over the phone and video calls.

ABA have also adapted their services in response to the pandemic, including offering live exercise classes via video call and preparing and delivering culturally appropriate food parcels and meals to their members who are vulnerable, self-isolating, and/or part of the ‘shielded’ group of who have been advised by the government to stay at home at all times.

For more information visit https://abaleeds.org.uk/ email: [email protected] call 0113 210 3347 or follow them on Twitter @ABALeeds

About Forum Central

Forum Central is a network of charity and community organisations which support people’s health and wellbeing in Leeds. It is delivered through the partnership of Leeds Older People’s Forum, and Volition (the mental health, learning disabilities and physical and sensory impairment forum). We provide information for and about the charity sector, promote and support partnership working across the city and act as an influential voice for nearly 300 charity, community and social enterprise organisations supporting the citizens of Leeds – from small grassroots volunteer organisations, to larger charities, and all those in between.

A number of Forum Central’s member organisations are commissioned by Leeds City Council and the NHS in Leeds to provide support, but many rely on donations to be able to fund their work, or a combination of sources of funding, and all are feeling the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Responding to COVID-19

The Forum Central staff team continue to work hard to support their member organisations throughout this unprecedented time, and have been connecting with charities who support the most marginalised people in Leeds – including, for example, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities, LGBT+ people and people who are homeless – to help these communities access information and support, as well as raising concerns with partners (such as Leeds City Council and the NHS), including funders, about the impact of the crisis and any support that can be given.

Forum Central is also finding new ways of helping health and wellbeing charities to keep updated – with the latest news and information about COVID-19 and support for charities available, but also with each other – through using video conferencing technology to hold regular update sessions.

To find out more about Forum Central, visit their website www.forumcentral.org.uk or follow them on Twitter @MyForumCentral