A CHARITY supporting older people in North Yorkshire and Darlington is expanding a raft of services to help those who are self-isolating because of coronavirus.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington is suspending its social activities, home visits and face-to-face appointments and befriending visits.

But the charity is expanding its telephone befriending service to prevent loneliness among people who are self-isolating, as well as introducing a hot meal referral service and a temporary free volunteer shopping service.

It is appealing for new volunteers and donations to help run the additional services.

The hot meal referral service is for self-isolating over 70s and vulnerable groups aged over 50, initially limited to Darlington and parts of Richmondshire.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington works with people in Darlington, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Harrogate and South Craven.

With immediate effect the charity will be temporarily suspending all social activities, home visits and face-to-face appointments and befriending visits.

Information and advice services will continue to run offering a telephone advice service only.

Café Refresh at Bradbury House will also close to the public, but the Sunday dinner delivery service will continue to run for the time being.

Day Care services will also be closing during this time to reduce risk of transmission and to allow carers to focus on providing priority home care services.

A statement by the charity said: “The purpose of these changes are to allow Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington to maximise its resources to allow the charity to focus on providing the support needed by those who are self-isolating to maintain their health and wellbeing in order to reduce the burden on the NHS and local authorities, so that they can focus on helping those who need it most.”

It adds: “To provide these services the charity will need help from the community, there is a need for volunteers to become telephone befrienders, volunteer shoppers, to help deliver hot meals and help with answering the phones and other administration tasks.”

Many of the roles can be done in the evening or at the weekend.

The charity is also urging people and businesses to consider making a donation to allow it to continue to provide these services.

It expects to lose a “large percentage” of its usual income through the closure of activities, day care and café.

The charity said: “At this difficult time it is important to recognise that there are a number of other charities and new informal organisations that are being set up and mobilising to assist older people in the community.

“Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington will be aiming to work alongside these organisations to ensure that together we can deliver necessary help to older people without duplicating efforts and also to provide help and advice to other groups and organisations as needed.

“As a community we will be facing some difficult and challenging months ahead and Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington remains committed to ensuring that older people in the community are given the help and resources they need to get through this time.

"The charity look forward to returning to delivering their full portfolio of services soon and give sincere thanks for everyone’s patience, support and understanding at this time.”

Donations can be made to the charity, which is financially independent from the national Age UK, by  visiting www.ageuknyd.org.uk or by calling 01325 362832.

Age UK Darlington and North Yorkshire is providing the following services:

  • Expanding telephone befriending services to prevent loneliness and ensure the wellbeing of self-isolating older people.
  • Introducing a hot meal referral service for self-isolating over 70s and vulnerable groups aged over 50, initially limited to Darlington and parts of Richmondshire only, to provide a two course basic set menu comprising a hot main course and dessert for £5, including delivery. Orders can be made by calling 01325 741492 by 11am on the day needed or emailing catering@ageuknyd.org.uk. Payment is cash or cheque only at present but the charity is looking at providing card and bank payments as an alternative in future.
  • A temporary free volunteer shopping service where volunteers will collect shopping for older people and drop it off at their homes. The charity will also work with local supermarkets and food producers to try to ensure continuity of food supply for older people.
  • The charity has launched a local rate helpline number on 0300 30 20 100 for advice on how to cope with coronavirus and information about extra services and a dedicated email address for concerns at coronavirus@ageuknyd.org.uk
  • Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington will also continue to post information on their website and social media channels including the latest relevant Government and NHS information for older people, advice on avoiding coronavirus related scams, virtual activities and will be posting advice and tips on how to cope with long-term isolation in the home.
  • Not all older people are able to access online services so in parallel with the online services the charity will also be developing non-digital alternatives including promoting volunteer pen-friends and a free newsletter including tips, advice, articles and puzzles. These will be made available in printed form and as digital downloads for people to print off and give to neighbours.