With hope on the horizon, we’re at a crossroads for giving support

Woman on telephone (Jewish News)
Woman on telephone (Jewish News)

Notwithstanding the shockwaves and monumental life changes engendered by Covid 19, it has also presented a huge opportunity for transforming service delivery across the board, changes which previously would have taken many months of discussion, planning and modelling.

In order to work smarter and faster, Paperweight replaced its delivery model overnight. Until March 2020, our volunteer caseworkers had been visiting clients in their homes, helping them sort through the paperwork associated with just some of the financial, familial and bereavement issues we help with.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, obviously this could no longer continue; instead, support had to be provided from volunteers’ homes by telephone, zoom or other remote modes. This sweeping change is just one example of how the pandemic has led communal organisations to adjust their ways of working and responding to the urgent needs of the moment.

In these unprecedented circumstances, there has been no other choice in ensuring work continues; huge credit must go to both workers and clients across the community, who have stepped up to the mark, demonstrating technical skills and abilities that many did not know they possessed. The results have been empowering and service providers have witnessed an exponential increase in demand, which remote service delivery has allowed us to assist with at a critical time.

Now, for the first time in many long months, we are standing at a crossroads, with a glimpse of some return to normality on the horizon.  The question for us and many other charities will be to scope out how we go forward from here.

We know we need to provide face to face services for the most vulnerable, who can neither access nor use technology, or who are housebound by reason of illness and disability. Many of our volunteers too, on whom we rely, need to return to the camaraderie and interaction that an office environment presents. But whether there will be a full return to face-to- face services seem doubtful.  Somewhere in between, organisations have learned a lot about the efficiency, effectiveness and reach that remote service delivery enables.

The challenge must now be negotiating how services look in the ‘new normal’.


About the Author
Caroline is its Director of Services for Paperweight, a charity in the UK. She has over 20 years experience in the advice sector, working predominantly for local Citizens Advice offices, in a variety of roles including chief executive officer, senior manager, advice session supervisor and adviser. At university she studied Law and has taught Contract Law at undergraduate level.