Tales from the ‘Spark’ side

By Tanya Camberwell, Healthwatch Somerset Engagement Officer.

The effects of COVID-19 are currently impacting all aspects of life in the UK, and Healthwatch Somerset is not alone when it comes to being innovative in the way we contribute and engage with our health and social care services and users.

Along with countless other organisations we must follow government restrictions and social distancing guidelines.  This means we are limited in how we carry out our regular public engagement work.

The Healthwatch Somerset team are determined to help the people of Somerset through these nationally challenging times and have responded with the same flexible can-do attitude that so many people of the UK are displaying.

On top of their regular duties, our Manager and Team Administrator have signed up with local telephone befriending services Re-engage and Somerset Sight as well as responding to befriending referrals directly from Somerset Village Agents.  Our Volunteer Officer is helping support Burnham and Highbridge Corona Warriors, has signed up to the NHS Responders and continues to keep in regular contact with our amazing volunteers.

As Engagement Officer, I am continuing with my regular duties that do not involve meeting people face-to-face.  This now includes supporting Spark Somerset for two days each week.  Spark provide information, advice, training, and support to the voluntary and community sector in Somerset and also run the Volunteer Service, inspiring people to get involved and make a difference in their communities.

In response to the amazing torrent of offers to help those effected by COVID-19 and imposed restrictions, Spark have put together a website that matches people who want to volunteer with organisations and groups that are helping people.  The Corona helpers site also matches those who need assistance with their local group of volunteers, and unlike the NHS Responders you do not have to be on the at-risk register to access help.

I will be writing a regular short ‘blog’ on the work I am doing with Spark to keep you updated on some of the fantastic things our amazing communities are doing.  For now, I would also like to thank each and every person who helps those in need.