The vulnerable elderly population across East London have faced the devastating impact of isolation, of feeling abandoned, of losing access to the places that enabled support. We teamed up with Meridian wellbeing (formally known as the CMHA) for the Wave 3 London Community Response Fund in order to fulfil the differing needs for those vulnerable where one organisation on its own cannot fulfil; so by working together we can extend our reach.
Advice and Advocacy
Due to the isolation, a number of members have been facing financial and other issues, in addition to lacking an understanding in English, this made it more difficult for the vulnerable to apply for welfare benefits and systems. For the extremely vulnerable we carried out welfare benefits advice, housing and debt advocacy services which were delivered over the phone or in person. In light of community centres being closed due to the pandemic, we sent out a team of staff to the individual’s homes to carry out advocacy work. This included helping the elderly book GP & healthcare appointments, ensuring repairs and maintenance were taken care of by contacting the council, filling out any renewal forms and making sure every member could make their Covid -19 vaccination appointment online as many had difficulties in navigating computers and the internet.
We know that there is not one solution to connecting older people to the internet, but poverty and lack of relevant training plays a big part. In response to this, we provided the individuals with a brand new cellular tablet and a data sim card, free of charge and adjusted it to their needs by formatting the device in Chinese and a large font size. We also installed useful applications such as Whatsapp, Youtube, Google Chrome, Zoom and Spectrum radio. Knowing that many of our vulnerable clients were digitally excluded; one to one training and support was provided to each individual to help them learn how to access online services, the internet, the Meridian wellbeing website and communicate with friends and family. Every week, Meridian Wellbeing held webinars discussing mental health issues and provided online activities (e.g. tai chi, chair yoga, flower arranging) on their website to help make isolation for the vulnerable slightly easier. www.meridianwellbeing.com
Discrimination and hate crimes
There has also been a stigma against the Chinese community due to the Coronavirus, where in some instances being known as the ‘Chinese Virus’ causing many discriminatory acts towards our community. We have had community members blamed for causing the virus, insulted towards, spat at and even assaulted. This has caused a knock on effect towards members of the Chinese community, giving them fear and anxiety to go out into public places. Therefore, on the 16th December 2020, Meridian wellbeing, CATH and the Metropolitan Police held a webinar – where we had speakers, Nazma Begum (Hate Crime Partnerships Officer, Tower Hamlets Council) and Rich Poolman (Hate Crime Coordinator & LGBT+ Adviser, Tower Hamlets & Hackney, Met Police) to raise awareness for hate crime. The webinar discussed what hate crime means, some examples or hate crime incidents, how to report an incident and who to contact for support.