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How the charity sector is adapting to change

As we move into the end of our second month of complete lockdown, we look to see what impact Covid-19 is having on our communities and in particular our charity partners.

At this point most charities have now closed their offices, staff are working at home or in many cases have been furloughed and service delivery is changing and looks set to continue to change further as we adapt to a new way of living.

Face to face services have gone online and fundraising events have been cancelled. Talking to our clients over the last month we were hearing that organisations were reacting in different ways, depending on their mission, resources and leadership.

At Hudgells a big part of the work we do in supporting clients in their road to recovery is signposting them to community organisations, and one very close to our hearts is P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery which is based here in Hull and run by founder, Paul Spence who himself has suffered from an acquired brain injury and knows first hand how important his service offering is to his end users.

When talking to Paul, he recognises that the current situation we find ourselves in takes him back to the time he was discharged from hospital following his brain injury, and the isolation he felt when sent home to what ultimately was to be his new way of life.

It is this recollection that has driven Paul and his colleagues to strive to continue to operate ‘business as usual’ and offering his much needed services to his community in the best way he can.

Paul considers some of the key issues that charities are having to address throughout these unprecedented times and talks candidly about how P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery continues to adapt.

How P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery adapting to change;

How has fundraising been affected?
Income is the overriding concern for charities at the moment and is putting a huge amount of strain on the sector. Events fundraising is key to the financial health of many organisations and along with shops it is the most affected. Most organisations, including P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery have cancelled their own planned events and are having to apply new thinking to the way in which they try and replenish some of the losses they expect to total over the coming months.
How are you overcoming the reduction in revenue streams?

Strong leadership and a loyalty to our mission really matters at any point but particularly in a crisis and I have, with the support of amazing staff and family, managed to steer the ship to some extent in a positive direction.

The charity sector is set to lose billions in fundraising activity and with so many unknowns about how long we could be in this situation, it’s difficult for organisations to plan any fundraising events or go ahead with those already in the making.

We have a number of events scheduled throughout the year which generate revenue that we depend on to run an efficient service. At this point we simply don’t know what will and what won’t go ahead.

Despite this though we have launched initiatives to help raise something towards these expected losses including a 'Cool Down in Lockdown' fundraising challenge recently. This was part of the 2.6 fundraising initiative set up by London marathon. All charities could use this concept to raise valuable funds for their service.

The idea being that charity supporters could organise an event using the numbers 2.6 or 26 (play on marathon distance) to fundraise. for example, you could do 26 flips of a pancake or 2.6km walk/cycle etc. - what ever you wanted, getting creative!

We opted for something fun that people could do safely at home. The challenge involved taking a soaking from a bucket of water 2.6 metres away to catch as much water as possible in a measuring jug. Something fun for all the family. This was well received by the public, raising lots of positivity and hundreds of pounds. The challenge reached USA and Australia. It just showed the power of community and human spirit.
Have you had to become more innovative?

Innovation and adaption of service delivery appears to be changing in response to the crisis. Service provision returning to the grassroots as providers are having to ask searching questions about what the real need is right now, and update their services accordingly.

The Implementation of new systems and the use of technology to provide services has been great to see. The use of Zoom has been a stand out addition to many businesses, charities and households. This has helped to keep communities connected and our most vulnerable supported.

P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery has developed a support service through phone, email, message, video call and essential packages being delivered.
  • Updates on the government guidance.
  • Reminders to our service users, taking into a account potential comprehension and memory challenges.
  • Social chat to help reduce isolation.
  • Posted reminders of the importance of self care on our social channels.
  • Made 1,552 support contacts over the last 5 weeks.
  • Provided opportunities to feel connected and see friends remotely through quiz’s and yoga. This has been really well received!
  • Paul’s weekly videos to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and applauding service user on their resilience etc. These videos have been emailed to service users.

People have commented and said to me that they do not feel alone. We are all so very proud of our efforts and to hear this from our service users goes a long way in verifying that what we’re doing continues to make a difference.
How have you developed coping strategies for service users?

We have constantly promoted the use of coping / compensatory strategies and acts of self care to our service users. Creating some sort of new routine for time at home is important, as is keeping up with your usual coping/compensatory strategies and healthy lifestyle choices.

We encourage using your daily allowance of exercise in what ever capacity is right for you. Getting outside and moving is essential for good health and wellbeing.

Our weekly support and wellbeing calls give us a good opportunity to identify is a service user is struggling and for us to encourage a strategy that may suit the need.

Service users have been encouraged to stay up to date with guidance. Implement a flexible routine. Stay healthy with exercise, food and self care practices. Stay connected to people via calls or zoom.

Focus on the things within your control. Try use the spare time to develop new interests and habits. Remain calm and mindful this will pass.
How have you tackled the challenges within your team?

As a charity we have taken things day by day from the start of quarantine. We have constantly reviewed the government guidance to act accordingly. Our priority has always been to deliver the best service possible. As a team we have stayed connected and worked together, supporting each other in our new ways of working to make this possible. This has been though calls and weekly zoom team meetings.

Originally all our staff carried on working but as the lockdown continued we have implemented furlough. This has been accepted as the sustainability of the service is everybody’s priority.

In a nut shell it’s about sticking together as a team, being adaptable whilst supporting each other. An open and honest culture with voicing any challenges of the implementations and being realistic with expectations during this time.

As a charity we have rewritten our 2020 business and marketing plan. We hope this will reduce stress and provide clarity and comfort for our staff.

Comment from Paul Spence, founder of P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery

For some charities, there is a massively increased need from service users. Staff are really worried about their clients, and are hearing and seeing heart-breaking stories. This is particularly difficult when service users don’t understand what is going on, or can’t keep themselves safe so for us  our sole aim is to continue to do what we do within the guidelines set out by the government.

During the last five weeks the team at P.A.U.L for Brain Recovery have made 1,552 support contacts with service users.

We have even extended our service to deliver essential items to our most vulnerable to ensure they have everything they need.

This has gone a long way in keeping our thriving community active and has really helped service users and their families to cope through these times.

We continue to monitor the situation and develop any fundraising ideas to best suit the circumstances at the time. We must think on our feet and be innovative in our approach. We are now set to launch our ‘Friends of Paul scheme’ where people can make a £5 monthly donation to support our work. Friends will receive branded goodies and updates on how their support is making a huge difference.

If you or a loved one has suffered from brain injury and are looking for support you can find out more about Paul and his charity by visiting their website here.

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