It looks like the wonderful volunteers who are out there doing shopping and collecting prescriptions will still be needed to support people in shielding or self-isolation for quite a while to come, and OPAL will be there to support their efforts.
The UK Government announced this week that the current lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks, but it may need to continue for longer than that, depending on the trajectory of the pandemic.
As the First Minister announced yesterday, there will be an exit strategy rather than a ‘return to normal’, and this will probably involve a phased return to non-essential work, with people who can work from home continuing to do so as much as possible, and some social distancing measures remaining in place.
People who started shielding at the end of March or beginning of April will still be at home and requiring support until June – at the earliest – and there will continue to be new cases of COVID19 who need to self-isolate along with their families for the foreseeable future.
The Council’s Shielding operation is providing support to people who have received notification that they and their families need to shield themselves, and OPAL and all the volunteer groups across East Dunbartonshire are a big part of that response.
We have had to implement a few changes in response to our new way of working. Obviously, OPAL has moved to 7-day operation, 9 – 5, and we are all working from home rather than in our offices. We have more than one OPAL Adviser available for most of the week because of the increased demand, and we have had to implement a queuing system on the phone line.
On a personal note, OPAL turned eight years old this month. From the outset, we always wanted OPAL to have the personal touch, to be an informal chat rather than a strict referral process, and for the phone to always be answered by a person who would give you their name, and would not put you on hold all the time.
Unfortunately, because all the OPAL Advisers are working from home, the telephone system was becoming unreliable – we were losing calls whilst answering them, inadvertently leaving people on hold, or just not having the phone ring at home.
The queuing system addresses that technical problem, so whilst I am sorry that we have lost that personal touch, the benefit of reliably answering every call more than outweighs that cost.
OPAL remains an information and advice service, a way to find help and support for all adults across East Dunbartonshire. We are still here to answer your questions and direct you to the services you need. Give us a call on 0141 438 2347 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.