British Gas Helping Stroke Survivors during COVID-19
During COVID-19 many groups of people have been left isolated with limited human contact due to the lockdown, shielding or cancellation of physio and hospital appointments. British Gas have partnered up with the Stroke Association in order to support stroke survivors both via BGET fast track referrals as well as volunteering for the ‘Here for You’ service.
During COVID-19 many stroke survivors have been left without the usual aftercare they would receive in hospitals; this has been due to a greater requirement for hospital beds or simply to mitigate the risk of a survivor being in a hospital while the infection rates for COVID-19 were rising. This lack of aftercare has left many stroke survivors feeling isolated and alone, with limited human contact possible during the pandemic.
The Stroke Association Here for You Service
In order to reduce the isolation felt by some stroke survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic the Stroke Association created a volunteer telephone support service called ‘Here for You’ (there is more information on their website here). This service offers two opportunities for volunteers:
- Lived experience volunteer
This is peer support from a volunteer who has experienced stroke in some way, contacting the stroke survivor they have been matched with on a regular basis to catch up with them and share thoughts and experiences.
- Connect and chat volunteer
This is an opportunity for stroke survivors to receive regular contact from a volunteer to alleviate some of the isolation they may be feeling during these difficult times.
How have British Gas Been Involved?
British Gas have been able to work with Stroke Association firstly, by striking up a referral partnership, so that our agents are more aware of the challenges faced by stroke survivors. British Gas have also provided training for the Stroke Association’s helpline, so that they can signpost stroke survivors to the services that British Gas can offer in support, with a keen focus on the British Gas Energy Trust.
Connect and chat volunteers
British Gas are thrilled to so far have had over 20 volunteers to support with the Stroke Association’s ‘Here for You’ service as ‘connect and chat’ volunteers. Via the Stroke Association, these volunteers were able to complete a 2-hour training webinar and then be partnered up with a stroke survivor with similar interests in common for the commencing 10 weeks. Each volunteer phones their partnered stroke survivor once a week for roughly 30 minutes and has a catch up about everything and anything. Via this service the British Gas volunteers have been there to talk to stroke survivors on a regular basis and get to know them and their circumstances, striking up great relationships. Some quotes from some of the volunteers at British Gas are:
“We are really pleased to be supporting Stroke Association and would encourage other companies to do the same. It was very easy to set up and we found many of our staff were keen to volunteer and make a difference to people’s lives in these challenging times.”– Matt, Senior Consumer Vulnerability Manager
“I have truly loved getting to know the stroke survivor I was partnered up with, she has so much to say and we always have lovely conversations. I have also tried to be an emotional support for her when she has had low points and I really feel I have made a difference to her life, as she has to mine.”- Merry, Consumer Vulnerability Manager
“I get an awful lot out of these conversations and really look forward to speaking to him every week, hearing about his life and finding out how he’s been getting on. I’ve really enjoyed the phone calls. We’ve built up quite a friendship and we get on like a house on fire. It’s definitely inspired me to undertake more of these calls to vulnerable people.”- Darren, Dispatch Agent
One of the stroke survivors who has benefited from the service also said:
“The conversations and positive energy he brings is helping me during my stroke recovery, especially during a time when the world is affected by COVID-19. We talk about sport and striving to be the best we can be. We have respect for each other and this leads to open conversations that have meant I feel connected again. It’s really special what each and every volunteer is doing. It’s a Godsend.”
Bridget Bergin, Executive Director of Stroke Support Services at the Stroke Association said:
“Maintaining good mental health and emotional wellbeing is vital to recovery after a stroke and we’re incredibly grateful to the British Gas volunteers for giving their support. Stroke survivors have told us they really look forward to the weekly calls from such caring, friendly people.”
British Gas are immensely proud to have been able to team up with the Stroke Association both through volunteering and the referral partnership, with an ability to signpost stroke survivors to the support available from the British Gas Energy Trust.
To sign up to Here For You if you’re feeling lonely, isolated and in need of a chat, or to volunteer visit the Stroke Association website: https://www.stroke.org.uk/finding-support/here-for-you or the Stroke Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Meredith Fowler- Consumer Vulnerability Manager at British Gas