Age UK East London

Age UK – agile humanitarian response to pandemic

VCSE organisations can often respond rapidly to changes in circumstances, stepping in with emergency situations, adapting their expertise to meet the changed needs.

Case study by Jane Caldwell, CEO of Age UK East London

Age UK works with older people across East London – including 2500 in Hackney each year – in hospital, in the community and in their own homes. Services range from taking people home from hospital and getting them back on their feet, Homecare, Advice and Guidance, Advocacy, Navigation, supporting the Older People’s Reference Group and Community Connector Activities, like chair yoga.

With the arrival of the pandemic, we immediately reorganised and increased staffing on the frontline, based on the need to swiftly discharge people from hospital, and avoid re-admission. Given some people would be released early, it made sense that they would need to be supported for longer (we normally support for 4 – 6 weeks). Hackney was the quickest to start discharging patients and it helped that they included us in their re-organisation, forming a whole new unit.

Within 7 days we had a phone line giving advice. We were able to provide PPE from the start as we had some. We also had a good understanding of infection control. In the first week we set up a food centre – run by my chair and her family. They sourced all the food and packaged it. The handyman delivered it with the help of volunteers.

We are also supporting people who have been placed in hostels – people who are homeless, have no recourse to public funds or are fleeing domestic violence. We provided food for the first 2 weeks because we were able to mobilise so quickly while the council was putting systems in place. We provided people with whatever they needed – clean clothes, toiletries, phones.

To do all this we have been digging into our reserves and relying on the dedication of our staff; we did it because we could. It was a humanitarian agile response.

Age UK East London website