Shropshire and Telford Age UK continues support despite pandemic challenge and shop closure

A charity is continuing to support elderly and isolated residents throughout the county despite halving the number of its fundraising shops and closing its day services.

Heather Osborne, chief executive of Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, and Kevin Moore, deputy chief executive and director of operations
Heather Osborne, chief executive of Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, and Kevin Moore, deputy chief executive and director of operations

Age UK Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin previously had a charity shop in Wellington and Oswestry, but was forced to close the latter due to financial pressures caused by the pandemic.

The charity has also had to close its dementia and day centres, which about 600 people attended, and cease its extensive befriending service which supported about 300 elderly residents.

But staff and volunteers have "adapted so quickly" and worked to deliver the vast majority of services online and over the phone, while keeping open its essential help at home provision.

Kevin Moore, deputy chief executive and director of operations, said the Shropshire and Telford branch of the national charity was fortunate to have means of funding other than its charity shops.

Mr Moore said: "In many ways we're lucky that we're not reliant on shop income to sustain our services.

The Oswestry shop has closed as a result of the pandemic

"It's a very useful added source of income, but it's not core to our operation – closing a shop does mean less income and we'll have to fundraise in different ways and work harder where we can, but it's not critical.

"We had to close our Oswestry shop in October as a result of the pandemic, leaving us with just one shop in Wellington.

"That had reopened for a time, but is now closed again – we've opened and closed it three times since March.

"Most recently, it was finally getting back onto its feet when we had to shut the doors again."

In the last two months, the charity has set up a winter support service in partnership with Shropshire Council, specifically aimed at keeping elderly and vulnerable residents out of hospital.

Mr Moore added that changes had to be made "overnight" to keep up with ever-changing national guidance.

"The way staff and volunteers have adapted so quickly has been quite remarkable," he said.

The Wellington shop remains the charity's only store in the county

"The way we deliver our support has been the single biggest change. For example we run an extensive befriending service supporting 300 people where volunteers visit residents in their home once a fortnight – all of that has stopped but our volunteers have been amazing.

"Instead we've got a small team of staff supporting 300 volunteers, who are in turn supporting their clients over the phone and online, making sure they are okay."

Mr Moore added: "On one level I'm confident we're giving as much support as humanly possible to the people that need us, but there's no doubt the pandemic has caused people who were already isolated to become even more so.

"In terms of planning for the future, this is difficult as nobody knows how long this is going to last.

"We're worried about when lockdown is lifted and we start to move back into normal life. It's then going to be about recovery and getting all of our services back up and running, which will be a challenge."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News