Preserving services through helpline support

Preserving services through helpline support

26th February 2021

By Dani Lowe

If it was ever in any doubt, the excellence of the UK charity sector has been proven over the past year.

Charities have risen to meet the huge challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, often shifting to digital service delivery to support the UK’s most vulnerable people.

But now, many are facing a tricky predicament – supporting an increasing audience with less provision, and in most cases, a lack of funding.

So, what is the state of play in the sector, and how can Connect Assist support your charity in these tough times?

Pandemic pressure on the charity sector

According to a new report from Pro Bono Economics, many charities are entering 2021 with pressure mounting from several directions.

Its survey of 216 UK charities found that 75% expected demand to rise in 2021, and 83% expected funding to drop.

Existing service users’ needs have intensified during the pandemic, while others have turned to charities for the first time.

Lack of digital skills

One key area of concern is digital service delivery.

In preserving business continuity, many charities had to shift their key services online during the pandemic – for instance, substituting in-person social groups for elderly people with video calls to tackle loneliness.

Technology is often dated and, when coupled with potential skills gaps among staff, volunteers and service users, this can create a build up in demand.

Some 27% of charities surveyed by Pro Bono Economics said they would be cancelling services in 2021 because they or their users lacked the necessary skills and technology. 

Helpline demand

Many charities have boosted their helplines to meet what in some cases is a stratospheric rise in demand.

Mental health charity Mind, a Connect Assist client, said that its Infoline and Legal Line was receiving more, and longer, calls throughout lockdown.

And another client, the Lighthouse Construction Industry charity, said that calls which required caseworker assistance rose by 70%.

Shirely Scotcher of DeafBlind UK told Pro Bono Economics: “We support people with sight and hearing loss, and whereas they usually are able to access face-to-face befrienders or our social groups, many of them are completely isolated now. They’re struggling to access food and prescriptions, and it’s affecting mental health.

“When your hands are your eyes, feeling your way round in a pandemic is incredibly difficult. So our members are coming to us more and more, for advice, support, and just a friendly voice sometimes. Where we were taking 300 calls per month, now we are taking over 1400.”

Marketing vs service delivery

Some charities are emerging exhausted from lockdown to find that they’re spread very thinly in terms of time, energy, and money.

Many are, understandably, launching huge fundraising drives to tackle these backlogs, upskill their staff and service users, and put themselves on a firmer footing.

Of course, charities do need to invest in marketing. But there is a risk that such campaigns detract from charities’ core purpose: to provide services to people in need.

And in any case, nothing attracts new donors, inspires donations, and builds supporter loyalty more than proof that you’re doing a great job.

Connect Assist: partnering with the charity sector

There is no shame in needing business service support and it is important to ask for support when it is needed, but who helps the helpers? At Connect Assist, we’re proud to say that we do, in several key ways.

We can work as a consultancy, helping to design your digital service delivery.

We can offer you a call handling system with trained advisors providing emotional support, money advice, or information and signposting.

We can simply act as an overflow service, responding to calls out-of-hours or at times of peak demand: we’re open 24/7 every day of the year.

Rember, there’s always strength in numbers. With Connect Assist’s support, we can work together to help accelerate your recovery period by supporting you with your backlog, and meeting the challenges of the new normal with fresh skills, ideas, and vigour. Get in touch today!



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