A campaign to expand its activities and services in the community and attract more support and donations from local businesses has been launched by Age Concern Woking. The charity is also looking to recruit more volunteers who can commit to providing at least one hour a week of their time to meet a growing need by visiting a vulnerable person in their own home.
Last week the charity held its annual summer tea party at the Westfield Social Club which was attended by more than 100 people, including Woking Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Graham and Mrs Sarah Cundy. “We’ve been active in Woking for over 14 years,” says the charity’s manager Mary Lucas, of Westfield “and currently our two main activities are our friendship service and our information and support service, including emergency help when required.
“We also operate a home-from-hospital service for older people who have recently been discharged from hospital and need continuing help or support after the six weeks that another agency is contracted to provide.
We do not charge for any of our services
Age Concern Woking is based in the Moorcroft Centre in Westfield and currently has around 90 volunteers, including the charity’s trustees. Altogether, there are more than 120 elderly clients being visited on a regular basis, and the numbers keep growing. “Over half of our clients are 90 or over,” says Mary. “Many of them are frail and lonely and at risk, for example, from undiagnosed dementia and other ailments to which our longer living older clients are increasingly prone”.
We believe in cooperation, not competition, and work closely with many other local charities and agencies. However, we believe we are unique in that If we receive a cry for help from an older person we are willing and able to respond straight away and will remain in contact till the problem is solved.
“Before we begin the process of finding a suitable volunteer to visit a client, one of our staff will have visited them and addressed any issues requiring attention. These could range from the installation of smoke detectors or safety alarms, to a medical check-up or a visit to the chemist for a medication review. It could also entail a financial assessment, and repairs to the home”.
“We keep in regular contact with our volunteers and ask them to contact us if they have any concerns. There are a number of clients who have complex needs and are therefore visited by staff members intead of or as well as a volunteer”.
“We are often the first to spot warning signs that a client is ill, for example, noticing changes in behaviour and ability to cope that might indicate the early onset of dementia or other conditions that need medical intervention,” says Mary. “Our close contact with our volunteers insures that issues are addressed very quickly.”
“Many of our volunteers often put in far more time than just an hour a week. They get to know their clients well and often a close relationship is built up. I do visits myself,” says Mary, “as do the other ladies I work with and a couple of our trustees. I often take my dog, Foxy, with me when a client has expressed a love for animals”.
Some volunteers are happy to accompany their client to a medical appointment. “Our client liaison officer is very hands-on, says Mary, “and has taken people to hospital many times for scans, X-rays and even chemotherapy sessions”.
“We recently had a case with an elderly couple. The husband was caring for his wife who suffered from dementia. But he had to go into hospital to receive treatment for his own ailments and was going to be absent for several days. The volunteer on that case slept over in the couple’s home to make sure his wife was looked after”.
“Another aspect we think is very important is our local focus, adds Mary. “We are a Woking operation providing support for Woking residents and with Woking volunteers. Woking individuals and Woking businesses contribute their support and financial help. Essentially, when someone donates to Age Concern Woking, they are directly helping their neighbours and making a real difference in their lives”.
But of course, all this costs money and there is no charge for any of our services. Age Concern Woking has been supported over the years by a mix of individual and business donations, churches, occasional bequests, contributions from the families of those who have been helped – and other sources. “We had been receiving an annual grant of £5,000 from Woking Borough Council,” says Mary. “But this year it was not awarded and that has left us with something of a hole in our finances”.
“We really need about £40,000 a year,” says Mary. This goes on modest salaries for five staff, office rent and other office expenses, as well as petrol and other expenses. In these tighter times, it is increasingly difficult to raise sufficient financial support”.
“Now, we are hoping to build long term, lasting financial support from Woking businesses and we are contacting as many as we can identify to ask for assistance. At the same time, we would like to attract more volunteers who can commit to providing at least an hour a week of their time. Anyone can be a volunteer . . . . any age, any occupation, any walk of life,” says Mary. “If any reader knows of anyone needing our help they should not hesitate in contacting us”.
As a sign of the times and increasing bureaucracy, the charity is also looking for a qualified accountant to help with the book keeping and maintenance of regulatory compliance. Anyone wishing to offer their services as a volunteer or make a donation, can contact the charity on 01483 770753 or 077969 35316.