Charity staff praised for support helping customers get online

North Devon Gazette

Staff at a North Devon charity have been hailed by their customers for providing a ‘lifeline’ during the pandemic by helping to reduce social isolation and developing innovative ways to keep people in touch.Â

North Devon Homes has received messages of gratitude from residents for their help and support in keeping them digitally connected, which have been published in their annual report. Â

Inventive ways to communicate and keep in touch were developed with their customer support groups in response to the needs of residents. These included Knit and Natter groups, games afternoons, virtual youth clubs and a weekly radio show which proved indispensable for many, as these residents explained: Â

“It has been a fantastic way of keeping in touch particularly while we were self-isolating and stopping me from feeling alone. It has also taught me new skills and allowed me to keep in touch on a regular basis with my friends,” said Jane.Â

“Due to bereavement and Covid restrictions, joining in on the social events via zoom has been a great help to me, and I have made some lovely and supportive friends,” said Kate.Â

“The online groups and meetings have meant I could still keep in touch with others. Helping to see me through some tough times and providing a real lifeline,” said Tracey.Â

The report outlines how North Devon Homes staff went above and beyond to help get customers like Margaret online, she said: “Way back at the beginning of lockdown when none of us were allowed to leave our homes unless essential, Megan from North Devon Homes volunteered to come over to get me set up on zoom.Â

“Megan only lives around the corner from me. Although others tried to help over the phone it wasn't working and so Megan came around, socially distanced in the back garden and got it all set up for me.”Â

As part of a digital transformation, in October 2020 North Devon Homes launched its new website with increased functionality for customers who can now report a repair, make a payment, find support and get involved in resident groups.Â

Martyn Gimber, Chief Executive says “Never has there been a more important time to be digitally connected and this Get Online Week (18-24 October) we are reflecting on the hard work and care our staff have provided to support our customers.Â

“Lockdown wasn’t something any of us were prepared for and it was paramount for us that the needs our customers came first. We worked with our customers and were able to work quickly to develop ways not only to develop ways for our customers to keep in touch but actively support them to get online.Â

“For many of our customers this wasn’t something they were confident in doing and we are so proud of Team NDH for going above and beyond, meeting the needs of our community.”  Â

North Devon Homes is continuing to develop its digital services in the coming months and is working with customers, looking for further ways to improve their online services.