POhWER, one of the UK’s largest providers of advocacy services, has published its COVID-19 Impact Report which details the charity’s experiences over the last three months.
The report reveals staggering statistics including the number of those reaching out for help between March 23rd and June 23rd nearly tripling 2019’s figures, with the charity’s advisors handling over 70,000+ contacts during this period.
The national charity, which provides support and advocacy to vulnerable, marginalised and socially excluded individuals across the UK, also found that it had seen a higher than usual number of requests involving access to basic needs. For example, in the last three months alone, it received over 4,000 requests for help getting food parcels and meal deliveries, around 2,500 requests for help with shopping and over 1,000 requests to help collect vital medicine.
The report goes on to outline how people in need of additional support – who may experience a disability, vulnerability, distress or social exclusion – have been further marginalised by the lockdown brought on by COVID-19 and how the UK’s response has been managed.
This is not only due to shielding advice confining many of these individuals to their homes or, in some cases, their rooms – but also down to individual limitations preventing accessibility of need-to-know information.
For example, Yusif contacted HertsHelp – a local authority-funded service which POhWER runs in Hertfordshire – when he tested positive for COVID-19. He also disclosed that he lives with bipolar disorder and recently had a manic episode. However, Yusif didn’t speak fluent English so was struggling to understand what options were available to him. POhWER advocate Michael referred Yusif to mental health support and also arranged for him to receive regular food parcels during his time of quarantine.
“The changing Government guidelines are hard enough for most people to keep up with – so, imagine what it’s like for those needing additional support.
“The issues that our beneficiaries face, and the concerns they voice, need to be considered by the Government and local decision-makers ahead of any potential second wave. Otherwise, the knock-on effect will only be exacerbated and, potentially, have yet more devastating consequences. Guidance and provisions cannot be written for the mainstream only, as it excludes large sections of society at a time of need and crisis.”
To ensure that vulnerable, marginalised and socially excluded individuals continue to receive the essential support and advocacy they need, and keep on top of this surge in demand, POhWER’s staff and volunteers have been working to adapt its services. This includes changing its face-to-face advocacy to virtual drop-in sessions, increasing the hours of operation so advocates are available from 8am – 8pm, seven days a week, and setting up a regular podcast to tell the stories of some of the people it is helping.
You can view the full report here.