How are With Music In Mind adapting to COVID-19?

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.

In this blog we’re talking to With Music In Mind based in the Vale of Glamorgan. They tackle loneliness in their community by providing singing and social opportunities for people aged 50+, including those living with dementia and their families. They’ve been moving as much of their work online as possible whilst supporting less-confident members to access social media and online technology. We spoke to Kate Whitestone, Director at With Music In Mind to find out more:

Going digital

“We shut down a week before the official lockdown started because of the vulnerability of our group members due to their age. We started to try to work out how we could keep in contact with people because that’s the main issue; we’re quite aware that we’re set up to tackle loneliness and isolation it’s going to be a much bigger issue now that it’s enforced.

We’ve been sending out email and physical newsletters and quizzes to everybody that we have the contact details for. We do a lot on Facebook; we do as much as we can on social media first but a lot of our members aren’t actually connected to the internet, don’t use social media or they don’t own a computer. They’re the ones that we’re most worried about in terms of being isolated, so we’re using our time to help them get connected digitally.

We want people to continue to have music in their lives and also to be able to speak to each other and us too.

We’ve also got a few members that feel nervous about accessing things like social media so we’ve taken some advice from other organisations on how we can send them videos or how they can get more involved with online videos in a way that feels more secure to them, for example, by using a private channel on YouTube.

Our Musical Director has also set up a choir where he does Facebook Live sessions every day of the week so he plays songs that everyone’s familiar with, and we’re able to make sure that a lot of our members can tune into that; and that’s really helpful because it means that if there’s something that we can’t do ourselves for our members then we can direct them to something that another organisation is doing that will still benefit them.

We’re finding that there are some members of our groups who are more confident in using digital media and we anticipate the number of people who are confident will increase over time, so we, as an organisation, need to be able to keep up with that and to be able to offer those services in the future. This has become an opportunity for us to think about what we can do for people in the future, and how we could vary the services that we’re offering.

Making everyone feel included

For people that don’t feel confident using the internet or social media we’re using the phone to keep in touch with them, and all of our team can do that. That’s a simple way for us to keep in touch and it gives people some variety being able to speak to different people.

It’s really important to us that people come to our groups and socialise but there’s always some people that aren’t able to come to groups, for example if they’re living in a care home. We’re starting to think about how we can involve them using what we’ve learnt about using the internet in the future.

We were set up around research on social isolation and loneliness, therefore we know that it has dramatic effects in terms of depression, physical health and dementia. If you have a diagnosis of dementia then the condition will progress much more quickly when you’re isolated, so it’s important for us to get some socialising with our members. We know that some of our members are nervous about going online but if we can provide a user-friendly system where people can click a single button to see, for example, our pianist playing then I think that’s a step forward to tackling that.

Next steps

Looking at the bigger picture the consequences of all this is that mental health will come to the fore and there’s been a mix of emotions with our members due to being forced into isolation because of their age or their health status.

People need to know that we will be there for them for when it’s safe for them to come out and we’re running our groups again.

I think it’s going to be really important that people don’t feel abandoned and I think there’s a risk that some of them do feel that already; they’re scared that they don’t know how to access things that younger people use every day, like social media. I think that what will help people weather the storm is for us to keep in touch with them and to show them that we care, that we’re still here, and that we’re still invested in what we’re doing for them and their own particular needs.

The fact that The National Lottery Community Fund has been so flexible for us has been fantastic because it helps us reassure our members that we’re still here for them, and we will continue to be there for them once this is all over.”

Find out more about With Music In Mind on their website.

With Music In Mind have received a £9,500 top-up grant to help them to continue supporting their community during the COVID-19 crisis. 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.

The photos provided by With Music In Mind were taken before bringing in social distancing guidance.

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