VCSE groups adapting to service delivery during COVID-19

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We know that many voluntary and community groups are experiencing severe operating constraints currently, not least the inability to engage directly with clients and service users. One of the great characteristics of the VCSE sector, however, is the ability to adapt and improvise to meet the need.  Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, CAN is continuing to keep the sector updated and informed of developments that impact upon voluntary and community activity.

Founded eighteen years ago by manager Janet Money to support cancer sufferers and carers, Dereham Cancer Care is well-established in the town and beyond, and renowned for its support activities.  

Their Centre, off Cowper Road in Dereham, is managed and run by volunteers, offering support, friendship and information to cancer patients, their families and carers, and indeed anyone whose life is touched by cancer in the Dereham area.  Under normal circumstance the venue is open Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Dereham Cancer Care’s trainee volunteer befrienders are usually available for a chat and a coffee; some of them have had cancer themselves and have experienced what visitors may be going through, whist others have lost a loved one to cancer and empathise. They are there to help with someone’s journey with cancer, whether as a patient or carer. 

But these are not normal times of course, and different ways of supporting clients are having to be found. Founder and co-ordinator Janet Money is concerned but undeterred by the COVID-19 crisis.  

“The Centre had to close to the public in March, and we miss terribly not seeing everybody in person” said Janet. “But we are finding ways to adapt to the situation. My husband, for example, has been able to teach guitar on a one-to-one basis, observing social distancing rules.” 

“We’re keeping in touch with our clients by telephone of course, and email, and using Facetime to provide that extra bit of personal contact. Social isolation is a major issue for some of our service users who can’t drive, don’t have access to transport or, in some cases, can’t leave their home.” 

“We also rely on our Facebook page  to keep in contact and help people be engaged.” 

When open, the Centre provides information from Macmillan Cancer Support, explaining cancer types, various treatment options, living with cancer, nutrition, wellbeing, and helpful advice on complementary therapies. Leaflet information on various support and backup services is available for both patients and carers, and wheelchairs, walkers, rubber rings and Chillow Pillows are available for loan.  

There’s more. Qualified therapists specialising in Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Reiki and Counselling provide their services at the Centre, and Dereham Cancer Care sponsors treatment sessions for cancer patients and their carers. The service is also offered to those recently bereaved who have lost a loved one to cancer. 

These facilities are on hold for now but will of course resume when the Centre re-opens. No-one knows when that might be and possibly one of the biggest concerns for the charity right now is income. 

“Our ongoing income has dropped to zero” explains Janet. “Our running costs at the Centre continue during the lockdown. We also have a holiday home on the coast at Hopton, which we provide free of charge to those who can benefit from it. The irony is that because we don’t charge for its use, we can’t claim from the government for loss of income, which would amount to something like £400 a week if let as a holiday home.”  

Undaunted, Janet’s personal energy is focused on maintaining service delivery to her service users through the present crisis. 

Visit Dereham Cancer Care to find out more. You can also donate via the website to support Dereham Cancer Care’s work.