Transcript: Cumbernauld Action for Care of the Elderly: Covid-19 response

An interview with Margaret Riley, Chief Executive of CACE about how the organisation is managing in the Coronavirus outbreak.

Podcast Episode: Cumbernauld Action for Care of the Elderly: Covid-19 response



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MD - Michelle Drumm
MR - Margaret Riley

Cumbernauld Action for Care of the Elderly, or CACE, is an organisation that supports improved wellbeing and quality of life for older people in Cumbernauld. We spoke to Margaret Riley, Chief Executive of CACE about how the organisation is managing in the Coronavirus outbreak.

MD Margaret, could you just tell me, how did CACE…it stands for Cumbernauld Action for Care of the Elderly - how did that come about and what does it do?

MR It’s been…this is actually our 30 year anniversary, so we had lots of things planned for our anniversary which now are taking a bit of a back seat. But yeah, it came about - it was a pilot really to understand or, you know, find out what were the needs of the elderly people in Cumbernauld, and there’s a few sort of small villages round about Cumbernauld. So it started off as a pilot, it just went from strength to strength, and as I say, has been now supporting the needs of the elderly in Cumbernauld for the last 30 years.

MD And is it a local authority initiative?

MR No, it’s not, it just started off with actually a few elderly people in the community just recognising there was a need. They just started off with nothing and they started bringing people together, holding…you, know, having sessions for elderly people, and it just grew from there.

MD And what’s the type of activities then?

MR Yeah, so what we do is we provide social based activities normally in group settings. So we have different types of groups each day. We have something on each day. We have a ‘Sporting Memories’ groups which is mainly for men and it’s all based around reminiscence, but they do everything - videos, pool, snooker. We have people coming in giving talks, maybe health talks. We have a ‘Sheila Shed’, that’s for women - (… unclear) and knitting and they get involved in lots of different things - again, reminiscing runs through everything we do. We have a (… unclear) group, that’s more piloting different initiative, we have ‘Seated Yoga’ and ‘Mindfulness’. We have a ‘Men Shed’, a traditional men shed, and then we also run day care, so that’s for people with more enhanced needs, and they’re referred from Social Work, and we have a contract with Social Work.

MD Okay.

MR And every week we go an outing through our minibuses and we take people to places of interest.

MD A lot of the services then are kind of face to face activity based…

MR They are.

MD How are you managing to respond in the current Coronavirus crisis then?

MR Well that’s it, so interestingly, so as things were starting to develop, I recognised that we just can’t keep doing what we’re doing, because we can’t meet people face to face, and most of our clientele would be, obviously elderly, and in that vulnerable category. So what I decided to do was to start collecting all the information of addresses, you know, phone numbers, emails, and we got all the staff together and we gave every member of staff a bank of people to keep in contact with. We tried to break it down - we have group coordinators for all the different strands of our business. So what we started doing was just phoning every single person and phoning them every day if that’s what they wanted, or deciding when a person wanted a call - did they have family - did they have someone looking after their needs…food, medication? And so that’s just developed where we now phone people, when they need phoned, based on discussions - and also what we do is we write a…we produced a spreadsheet of every bit of support that we knew was going on in the community. We tried to put ourselves in the middle of that - so we set ourselves up as a befriending service and a signposting service. So we got to know the people know - were they being looked after? Did they have everything they need? And if they didn’t, we then referred them to all the local organisations that could provide shopping, medication or whatever. So I think up until yesterday we’d made just over 400 calls and we have made just over 50 referrals to different organisations and arranged shopping predominantly.

MD How many older people is the service supporting?

MR About 400 people a month come to one of our services. In two weeks we have made just over 400 phone calls. So roughly, we’re phoning every person twice a week basically…roughly about 100 a week.

MD So you’ve really had to adapt your services then?

MR Absolutely, we’ve just had to change our whole operating model really, because I mean I realised really quickly - this is going to end up in lockdown - what can we do for our service users? And the only way we could do anything for them is keep in contact with them now. We’re starting to look at things like using Zoom or using Skype to try and, you know, carry on some of our services, but maybe do that using technology. Now the only thing is a lot of our staff…there’s only a couple of them that I would say are ‘young’ - but just with the very nature of what we do, most of our staff are a bit more mature, and even…we have four minibuses and four drivers as well, and they’re all over sixty. So I had to really think about the welfare of staff as well. I could have jumped into say “oh we’ll get our drivers to deliver shopping or prescriptions”, but I really didn’t feel it was…that was open to me - actually one of our drivers is over seventy as well. So really what I’ve tried to do is think about the best way to protect our clients, but also to protect our staff.

MD And tell me more about the impact on staff? How have they had to react?

MR Yes, well I mean it’s obviously been difficult for everyone. They’re rising to the challenge - and what I started doing every night, when we’re at home, was doing a daily briefing. So at night I would send out an email of what had been happening - which was fine, but after about a week it was actually getting a bit, “what else can I say” - so what I decided to do was have a rota. So every member of staff does a nightly update, and it’s been absolutely amazing. So whereas mine were very business orientated and had a little thought for the day at the end, the staff have just been fantastic and I actually feel I’m getting to know more about the staff because of their emails - so they tell a bit about what they’ve been doing, and they love the people they’ve been speaking to - and some great stories. But as well as that, about their life and how they’re managing to cope during the day. So I mean people cope differently, but in general, they’re a great bunch of people who have really all risen to the challenge amazingly.

MD Fantastic, as you say they can bring other strengths and skills perhaps to the role that they wouldn’t have previously or needed to have previously?

MR Absolutely, and what they are saying, and what’s coming out really strongly is how much they’re getting to know people more, because they come along to the group and there could be 20 or 30 in the group, but if you’re speaking to someone on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes - “how are you”, “how’s your day”, “what do you need” - I think that builds up a deeper knowledge of the person, and we all want to be known, don’t we? So I think that is amazing.

MD And I guess there will be some positives to come out of this crisis period as well. You’re already saying there’s things like deeper relationships. Do you think there’ll be other things, potentially, to think about carrying forward?

MR I definitely think so, because one of the things we had been thinking about, and we were nearly at the stage of releasing, was a telephone befriending service. And really thinking about how things are developing, I think it’s definitely something that we could add to the portfolio of what we do. Because another thing that we do in CACE is that we run a volunteering befriending service, so we have about 65 volunteers and they help us run our groups, but they also befriend people in their home - and it’s just really strongly coming over to me now that it could really develop. But for people who just can’t come to the groups…I think the telephone befriending definitely might be something that we want to pursue. I also think even home working - I mean, you know, it’s working so well for some people that I think - that might be something that we might think of for the future. You know, I wouldn’t imagine the whole organisation doing it, but it just…it can work, and you know, we could make it work if that’s what people wanted to do - even a couple of days a week or whatever. So that’s been…and I think even, you know, first of all I started doing the updates, which I think was quite right to do - but I think just getting everybody involved more and, you know, hearing more from the employees about how things are for them has been really good, and I think it’s definitely brought us together as a team. And I know everybody waits for the update, and you always get “oh thank you for that”, you know, and I think even for teamworking, I think that’s been really good.

MD I mean as you go forwards, as you say, you’re thinking about other ways to deliver some of the services to people - and that might be maybe, what, online talks or and so forth…and at the end of it, then there may be other things that you build into your programme?

MR Absolutely, it’s so good. And I think we would probably need just a wee bit more expertise - I mean I think that’s what I feel I’m lacking. We do have Kyle who’s one of our younger members of staff, and he is very good, and he can usually turn his hand to most things - but I think the organisation would be strengthened with capabilities of expertise to bring that to the organisation. Because most of us being that bit mature in the organisation…I think we just need just a wee bit more strength in that area, and I think that is definitely something we can think about.

MD And I suppose intergenerational links as well, with organisations maybe doing some intergenerational work and involving young people and connecting up with older people?

MR Absolutely, I mean we do actually - in our groups just now, we do a lot of intergenerational work, and we work with local nurseries who come into our groups and we are linked with the local school, and we have a garden centre that we…but absolutely - I think that’s definitely a positive that it would open to the door to us to kind of thinking - well what’s different? What can we do different? What’s out there that we can use? I think it’s always been - not something that we’ve pursued, because just because our service users, the people that we give the service to - they’re not the people who are proficient online…and even our Facebook page, you want to get messages out. We have the…we do the Facebook, we do the webpage, but we also have to do a leaflet and pamphlet for people to take home, because they’re not going to be on it. But we do have to cater for all needs, I suppose, and definitely something to think about.

MD Yeah, and how have the groups of older people been feeling? Has there been a general feeling? Have they been kind of coming with ideas and willing to suggest things, or are they just finding it quite difficult?

MR I think it’s a range. Some people are used to being isolated, to be honest - they are saying they’re missing the groups, because maybe the group that they came to was the only thing…the only way they got out. The telephone calls and that contact is definitely helping, and they are saying “oh it’s amazing - we haven’t been forgotten about - it’s great that someone cares - it’s great hearing a voice”. And I was just reading one of the comments last night where one of the staff, in their daily update, said it’s amazing how when the person first answers the phone, their voice can be so weak and frail, and at the end of the conversation, there’s a stronger voice and there’s maybe a laugh. That’s just someone not using their voice, isn’t it? And actually it’s the first time they may have had to use their voice for days. So I think there’s a mixture - some people are coping with it worse than others or better than others. Another thing I didn’t mention about our volunteers - so a lot of our volunteers are elderly people and also people with maybe mental health issues - they’re maybe trying to get back into employment. We’ve actually involved them in making the calls as well - because a lot of them are as isolated as our service users. So that’s been really good, and a lot of the volunteers have been involved in making calls to the service users. So that’s just another factor involved here. It’s a range … a range…a good thing that is happening is that, with permission, for one of the groups, the ‘Thrive’ group, they’re just a bit maybe more able, the group that does the ‘Chair Yoga’ and ‘Mindfulness’ - they have agreed to swap phone numbers within that group. So as well as us giving them a call, they’re calling each other, which is really excellent. So that’s an innovation as well, I suppose, something different that’s happened out of the present crisis - which, hopefully going forward. It’s slightly disappointing, the government Resilience…

MD The Third Sector Resilience Fund?

MR And I just heard this morning that they’ve come back and said, you know, we didn’t qualify for anything - and the reason for that was because we changed our service. They were only giving funds to organisations who they were doing whatever they were doing prior to the present crisis - and I find that just amazing. So it’s disappointing, because without those funds, obviously I need to think about furloughing and…

MD Yes, because organisations are trying to move quickly and adapt to the current situation, and therefore they’ve had to change their service delivery model. So you would think there would be a bit more flexibility in there.

MR It’s disappointing, I think just because…I just got it in the last half hour, and I think that’s so disappointing…

MD I’m sorry to hear that.

MR And as you say, what else could we do? And if we didn’t change our service, and if we didn’t move onto being more resilient, then we would have no service. There’s just a lot of thinking to be done - we really want to continue the service, and we will do that where absolutely possible.

MD It’s still quite early days in this situation.

MR Yeah, absolutely, and as far as funding and…obviously staff are concerned because, what I did guarantee was I would pay all salary in April, which I’m doing, but I think that news this morning, I have to sort of reassess what happens going forward. But as you say, early days and we just have to keep plugging away.

MD Brilliant, well Margaret, that’s mainly all of my questions.

MR No problem.

MD It sounds like a fantastic service, and wishing it all the best going forward, and I hope you manage to continue.

MR Thank you very much Michelle, and nice talking to you this morning.

MD You too.

MR Take care.

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