Over the past year many people have been shielding from Covid-19. Some people’s doctors told them to shield. Many people got a letter from the NHS about shielding. Some people chose to shield because of other health matters or living arrangements. All have been called ‘vulnerable’ – and ‘vulnerable people’ is the story we’ve all kept hearing.
But ‘vulnerable’ shielding people have also been studying, volunteering, working from home, campaigning, home schooling, fundraising, caring about and supporting others, making things, and sharing their skills and talents with others – all the while staying physically distanced. So here are some of those ‘valuable’ stories.
Some people have done something new to help others because of Covid-19. Eighty-nine-year-old Flo Osborne made over a hundred pies at her home, which have been shared with many others who were isolated or distanced in her part of Essex. Janet Irwin in London telephoned people who were ill or quarantined to make sure they were getting food, medication, and other supplies, while she was shielding.
Some people who are shielding have changed how they do what they do, so others who are physically distanced can still take part. That might mean putting something online, like Pulp Friction CIC’s dance with a scarf video. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, virtual pub The Staying Inn has hosted accessible online events like pub quizzes, crafts, film groups, interviews, and workshops, for anyone self-isolating for any reason. Run by disabled people for disabled people, The Staying Inn is now running training for any business or organisation that needs to know about accessibility for their own online events, meetings, or training.
People who are shielding are working with organisations in other ways. In the East Riding of Yorkshire, three people living with dementia have created and will deliver a free 6 week Zoom course for anyone in their area recently diagnosed with dementia. They’re supported in this by four organisations, including the local council and NHS. Some are leading an inquiry into Social Care Future: a movement imagining, creating and sharing a new vision in which social care makes a major contribution to everyone’s well-being. Others have worked on Transport for All’s report, Pave The Way, to make sure disabled people’s experiences of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (and all the shared outdoor spaces where we wheel, walk, drive, push, or cycle) are still heard at a time of shielding or otherwise not getting outside.
Alongside Covid-19 and all its impacts, ‘vulnerable’ people’s usual lives carry on. At a Suffolk hedgehog rescue charity, over 350 hedgehogs have been rescued and rehabilitated since the first lockdown by two shielding volunteers – Ann and Chris. In Oxfordshire, both of Georgie Steele’s teenage sons have been shielding with their parents. Storyteller Georgie ran three distanced and online workshops with four other carers in her village, sharing stories of their lockdown experiences. Her younger son Laurie composed the music for their film, which Georgie shot, physically distanced, on her iPhone.
The stories we’ve shared here are all publicly available. But there will be more people with more stories out there – including stories of people who want to start something new.
Community Catalysts’ Valuable and Vulnerable project is connecting with people in Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, or Birmingham who have been shielded or very distanced from other people over the last few months. Or with people who work or volunteer for an organisation in these areas that links with shielded people or those who have been very distanced.
We’re offering mentoring time and expertise to you or your group, whether to design and run workshops or help in whatever way you need – free of charge. We’d love to hear from you if you’re up for this kind of a positive challenge and you’re based in any of those parts of England.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07876 836317 for a chat about how we might help you or someone you know.