Louis Quane, a Social Work MA student, writes about his work placement with Oxford Hub and inspiring acts of community support.
My social work experience has really taken off since starting this placement. I have been placed within the Oxford Together/Together Neighbours programme, which is one of the many elements of Oxford Hub. This particular programme was set up as the Hub’s volunteer programme to react and help those in need during Covid-19, particularly because of the amount of people that were having to self-isolate for weeks at a time and needed support with basic needs such as dog walking, phone links for loneliness, food shopping and prescription runs, as they couldn’t leave the house. The vast range of requests we receive means we have to be adaptable to whatever situation comes our way, as people in need from all walks of life, ages and circumstances, have been making requests with a variety of both short and long term needs.
My role is essentially to bring people together within their communities that we feel are a suitable match and then let this relationship occur naturally without our input. This means we try to be as clear as possible with both the volunteers and service users, as the initial process of pairing people together within the community comes with a responsibility to ensure the match suits both parties. These relationships can then flourish with the foundations that we’ve built.
The great thing about connecting people within community is the fact that there are so many people that really want to get involved with volunteering within the community so it’s creates a win-win situation. The platform is also such a fantastic resource to help with everyday situations that might not be able to be dealt with through public sector schemes and services. These issues may sometimes appear small and insignificant, but when resolved can make THE BIGGEST difference to brightening up their day and week.
For example, I had a request 5 weeks ago, and it was an elderly lady who was the primary carer for her husband with cancer. They live in a 3rd story flat without lift access and she has mobility issues so she uses a walker. However, she can’t actually get the walker down the stairs herself, so was subsequently completely housebound. Once she was on the ground floor she was able to independently go out for the day and go shopping and get her hair done, etc. So I have now found 3 neighbours who live really local to her (one just 2 buildings along) and they split the days of the week between themselves and call her at lunchtime to see if she wants to go out. If she does they’ll meet her at her house and take the walker down for her, and even though this is just a simple under 5 minute job for them, it allows her to get out whenever she wants and she is no longer housebound. Such a small being need being met by the neighbours on her street, making the world of difference to her life.
Hearing the joy of the volunteers and service users daily encouraged me to get involved outside of work myself. I now volunteer for three different people. Firstly, I walk a dog 30 minutes every morning for a lady who suffers with severe dementia. The dog hadn’t been out for a walk for months prior to this and I’ve seen him progress from being scared to look at me and hiding under the curtains to the morning sprint and excitable bark towards me every morning, and it’s a phenomenal feeling. Not only does it force me to get my exercise in which is fantastic, I’ve also become part of the small community of regular dog walkers every morning in the park.
I also do shopping for a 94-year-old deaf lady on a Monday and a gentleman with a broken back on Thursdays. They both have no family, friends or support network and are so grateful with my offer of help every time I call. I simply incorporate this with my own shop so it’s not a burden or time consuming for me, and they only usually ask for just a few bits. When I arrive with the bags and see the gentlemen’s eyes light up because he’s spotted his soft mints in the bag, it’s a priceless feeling.
The Hub is amazing and I’m definitely going to get involved for as many years as I can (continuing as a volunteer after my placement) because what you manage to give and get back at the same time is unparalleled with anything I’ve ever seen before.