We take a look at how charities have used digital technology to overcome obstacles to service delivery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent UK lockdown
Speeding up plans to for digital transformation, many of charity digital leaders have launched new digital programmes to address communication, outreach, and service delivery challenges. Given the coronavirus restrictions, charities have taken advantage of the digital tools available – unsurprisingly, online video conferencing, networking, and social media have been front and centre.
Using popular and accessible technology, charities are going online to deliver support services. Wednesday’s Child recently accelerated its existing plans to diversify front-line touchpoints. The early launch of its essential telephone helpline services and remote support was done in partnership with DPS, the technology company.
“This is a really significant step for us, and something we have been eager to implement in order to reach the large number of families or individuals who cannot, or do not feel able to, have physical meetings or appointments about eating disorder issues,” said Wednesday’s Child Founder Debbie Watson.
In addition to the early launch of digital services, Wednesday’s Child is also offering live counselling and support services via the video conferencing service Zoom.
“Our new courses are interactive, engaging and social and provide an essential lifeline in these worrying times. Our experienced course leaders continue to provide essential evidence-based information about pregnancy, birth and the early days with a newborn. They’re still local so to also enable new mums and dads to build a community support network of other parents having a baby at the same time,” said CEO of NCT, Angela McConville.
The NCT, the parental support charity, has already run over 50 courses on a weekly basis, supporting expectant families. The charity has also enhanced other support services – it has set up a specialised team to handle virus queries, and has stepped up updates to its website to keep parents informed.
Scouts UK, the youth charity, normally meets in real life, challenging young boys to take on the outdoors and relieving parents of a couple hours of care. With coronavirus restrictions in place prohibiting group gatherings, parents have had to step in and fill the gaps where teachers, scouts, activities, and babysitters have left off. Launching in the midst of the public crisis, the digital resource aims to bring cheer home.
Chief scout Bear Grylls said: “That’s why these brilliant activities will be welcomed by parents right across the UK. There’s something for everyone here to keep learning and having fun, while warding off cabin fever. They’ll help families stay busy, focused and cheerful. It’s not often you’ll find me talking about the great indoors – but this is the exception. Try them out, look after each other, and most of all, make this challenging time a safe and positive time – it’s all state of mind.”
Supported with funds from the CDRF charity, King’s College London, ZOE Global and the National Institute of Health Research Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre the new app launched in response to the dearth of health data.
The app will be used by sets of twins recommended by the TwinsUK, the UK’s twin registry. From the genetic similarity of twins, researchers can track symptoms to potentially determine genetic factors which may influence the severity of the disease.
The free app will also be available to the public. “The more of the public that also use the app, the better the real-time data we will have to combat the outbreak in this country,” said Professor Tim Spector, Head of Department, Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology.
Charity digital leaders offering services to vulnerable populations have been particularly challenged by coronavirus on two fronts – the geographical spread of beneficiaries and connections with supporters.
Set up in response to the health crisis, Covid-19 Mutual Aid is a horizontal network of charities, communities, and individuals connecting those in need with those able to help. The site offers a search for those looking for help by location – unlike many search sites, the Covid-19 Mutual Aid site lists unconventional services in the community. Local shops are listed offering older citizens aid at no charge. Found through the mutual aid site, Nad’s Store in Carluke has a Facebook page up and running, bringing supplies to isolated residents. Chat groups by local communities are also available to connect neighbours – Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Stroud Green, and many others are listed.