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Age UK Sittingbourne supports hundreds each week during pandemic

A charity that has been supporting the town’s older community for more than 50 years has continued doing so throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Age UK Sittingbourne, which merged with the Faversham branch to better support both communities, has been supporting more than 500 people a week during the crisis – despite all centre and community-based services being suspended. It also delivers between 80 to 100 meals a day, seven days a week.

A socially-distanced 100th birthday present for one of the centre’s befriending clients
A socially-distanced 100th birthday present for one of the centre’s befriending clients

Clare Burgess, who has been chief executive since April 2020, said: “We had to review what we could do to ensure we were supporting some of our most vulnerable and working with them and their families to see what we could do to help.

“Lots of other services had massively reduced their support and access to some of them was really difficult – we were on the ground and knew we could help.

“Immediately, we started risk assessing our clients and our services, and finding out what individuals really needed.

“We quickly started a free shopping and prescription collection service, which was absolutely vital at that time. We also started creating activity packs that we could post out to our clients and asked all of our staff and available volunteers to start welfare telephone calls and doorstep welfare checks.

“These calls continue to this day and have been so important for our clients to have contact with people on a weekly basis with someone outside of their home. Many of our clients live alone and/or have lost their loved ones during the last year, which has been really difficult.”

A doorstep shopping delivery by the team during the pandemic
A doorstep shopping delivery by the team during the pandemic

Clare added: “If we hadn’t have been here, there would have been so many people fall through holes. We’ve even had clients and their families say to us that if we hadn’t have been around, they don’t know what they’d have done.”

Other services that the charity has continued to run for those aged 50 and above include its one-to-one companionship service to help improve people’s confidence and wellbeing, as well as decrease loneliness, its virtual weekly dementia café and a new gardening service.

With Covid restrictions easing, it is now looking to restart some activities at its day centres.

The Sittingbourne centre, in Avenue of Remembrance, which is now being used as a Covid vaccination hub, is set to reopen in August once the jab clinics are complete.

Clare said: “It’ll be lovely to see people back through our doors.” Thanking staff and volunteers, she added: “All of the team have a genuine passion to make people’s lives better and that has really shone through over the last year. I’m proud to be part of this amazing team.”

For more, visit ageuk.org.uk/favershamandsittingbourne

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