During the Covid-19 lockdown, Haringey’s pre-existing service user groups (termed reference groups) continued their work, where possible, through a variety of channels including Zoom, phone calls and email exchanges. They shared their experiences of health and social care services in Haringey during this difficult time; raising issues and challenges and making suggestions for improvements.
Feedback from the reference groups is invaluable in terms of hearing directly from Haringey residents about their experiences of health and social care. All feedback has been summarised in this report so local and national decision-makers can use it to inform their Covid-19 strategy and planning going forwards, particularly in terms of making plans for Autumn/Winter 2020.
All information within this report was gathered between April and August 2020 through meetings held online and individual feedback over the phone and by email.
Although many concerns were raised and the pandemic created a great deal of anxiety for Haringey’s reference groups, some changes and action taken in response were seen as highly positive.
Some concerns and positive occurrences were expressed across all reference groups.
What has worked well
- Community spirit and volunteers. Both were highly praised by reference group members.
- Connected Communities. A programme established in 2018 by Haringey Council to improve access to council and voluntary services. During the lockdown, Connected Communities helped residents access essential items including food and other support they needed.
- Mutual aid groups. Formed during lockdown at the neighbourhood level and building strong links with statutory and Voluntary and Community Sector services and vice versa. These groups provided a wide range of support for others in their community – for example checking on neighbours and shopping on behalf of others. The mutual aid groups were praised and appreciated.
- Telephone support. Reference group members appreciated having someone to speak to on the phone when calling Haringey Council. Phone calls made from the Council, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and other organisations to check on carers were well received. A telephone befriending service set up by Public Voice’s Reach and Connect service, was also seen as an important and successful method of tackling isolation.
Concerns and points raised
- Information and communication. Information about Covid-19 risks and service availability should be better communicated to residents, especially considering language barriers and disabilities.
- Digital inclusion. Digital exclusion is commonplace amongst vulnerable groups and therefore digital access (internet and email) cannot be relied on either as a means of communication or of accessing help and support.
- Digital enablement. A common concern was that there was not enough support for service users to access digital services where there was a will to do so with support.
- Virtual services. Over the phone and online appointments should not replace face-to-face appointments as it does not work for everyone. However, a combination of both could work. Language barriers and disabilities should also be taken into consideration.
- Provision for people with disabilities. New and evolving provision should consider the needs and requirements of all service users.
- Sustainability, community, volunteers and mutual aid groups. There are fears that the capacity of the Voluntary and Community Sector and mutual aid groups which has supplemented the statutory services during the lockdown may be short-lived when normality returns. Without serious work to retain this capacity, it is feared that big gaps will emerge in essential support for vulnerable people.
- Undetected vulnerable people. It was felt that many vulnerable people would be unknown to the Council and NHS, or may have been waiting for diagnosis at the start of lockdown. These people may not have received support they needed.
Proposals and suggestions
- Communicate more, faster and better. Across all reference groups it was felt that changes to services, actions taken, and future planning should be better communicated by the Council and NHS.
- Provide digital and face-to-face access to services. As the lockdown is eased, it is felt that face-to-face access to services should be resumed but not at the expense of digital service provision introduced during the lockdown. It was repeatedly commented on that, where possible and appropriate, digital service access should be offered alongside traditional face-to-face provision.
- Greater coordination and consistency. In various ways the reference groups felt that services, communication, information and advice should be centralised between the NHS and Haringey Council to facilitate clearer and more tailored communication, guidance and service provision.
- Digital enablement. It is strongly felt that more work should be done to enable those currently unable to access services digitally.
- Default financial assistance. It was felt that where steps are taken to lessen a financial burden (e.g. possible suspension of council tax collection), these should be done automatically rather than expecting an individual to apply, which may be very difficult for a vulnerable person in a state of raised anxiety, depression or ill-health due to the lockdown and pandemic.