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How Ponthafren Association are adapting to COVID-19 

May 18, 2020
Woman on phone

We understand that COVID-19 is impacting on many of the groups funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, but we are also very proud of how those we fund in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors are adapting their services to support their communities.

For Mental Health Awareness week, we’re talking to Ponthafren Association based in Newtown, Powys. They provide a range of mental health support for people in the local area including counselling and mentoring. They took steps early to minimise disruption to their services, and have since adapted their services online to meet the needs of their community. We spoke to Claire Cartwright, Director at Ponthafren to find out more:  

Keeping in touch

We’ve had an increase of around 40% in requests for support, and thankfully with funding from The National Lottery Community Fund we’ve been able to recruit a new team member to meet the demand.

Everything is continuing and we’re getting ready to open the doors with new opportunities. We’ve learned that working at pace, and mostly remotely that we can do things differently. Once we start to go back to normal we aim to capture and apply the learning experience to our future working.

Looking back we took the decision right at the beginning that our online channels would have specific purposes depending on what was used. Our website has official guidelines from the government  recorded sessions on resilience, health and wellbeing, and recoded advice from counsellors.  Our concern was that bad advice can spread faster than the best advice, so we wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any confusion for people.

We use Facebook for local information and fun things like virtual walks around our site’s gardens. Our building is set against the river in Newtown and our volunteers have been filming walks around the garden for people to watch. We’ve also had volunteers reading poetry, running yoga classes online every week, singalongs, quizzes on Friday, cake making, also having staff filming videos sharing things about themselves to keep that human-interaction there.

We use the phone a lot for members to do regular services like making sure that people are ok, that they’ve got someone to talk to, and that they’re not lonely or isolated. We’ve got some concerns with people that have struggle with substance misuse, and a phone call from us is very supportive for them.

Working with our partners

At the beginning of the lockdown we found that there was a sense within the community that people were unsure of what to do, so we, along with Newtown Town Council, Salvation Army, some of the faith groups, and our local voluntary council, PAVO formed as an informal network. We meet every day to co-ordinate an infrastructure of support for the community; food, prescriptions friendship groups. That’s something that we would like to continue doing with these groups in the long-term.

We also meet with the local service providers in Powys delivering health and social care and hey have the latest advice. We also have virtual meetings with our existing networks to maintain them and share information.

Challenges

People are concerned about how long this will go on for; and it’s challenging. As a mental health organisation we encourage people to get out, go for walks, eat well, and be active in the community and with their bodies. Those activities, whilst being good for physical health, are good for people’s mental health too. However, as we’ve gone into lockdown a lot of those things are very challenging for people to be able to do. Our concern, especially as we can’t see each other in person, is how do we get people back into acknowledging that they need healthy food, exercise and so on, and how can we support them with that as lockdown continues as well as after it ends.

I think the long-term effect of COVID-19 on mental health organisations will be the challenge of supporting people who have been affected by isolation the most because it’s allowed people to sit at home, possibly alone, and not engage with us. There will be some people, once this is all over, that will be desperate to come back whereas others may feel less like they need more time to engage with us again.

What next?

“We need to take a more flexible approach to mental health once this is over but also to maintain our ethos that we’re there for people and for their mental health.

There’s a recognition that staff and volunteers need to adjust to homeworking as it has been quite difficult. We continue to do our online learning and have staff doing ILM qualifications over lockdown. We know that we need to react to what’s happening now but also to keep an eye on the long-term because once we come out of lockdown things will be busy again. We’re looking after our team, encouraging people to still use their holidays because they need their time off because it’s difficult for them too.

Our relationship with The National Lottery Community Fund has been incredible, and they have been fantastic and supportive of us during COVID-19.

Find out more about Ponthafren on their website.

Ponthafren have received a £20,000 grant to help them support their community during this difficult time. This is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s commitment to prioritising applications for COVID-19 related activity. To fund out more about our response and what funding we have available,visit our website.

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