Chorlton Good Neighbours, an Update from Helen Hibberd

What’s been happening at CGN in the last month (March 23rd to April 17th). An update from Helen Hibberd, Coordinator

The CGN Office: All activities have been suspended. I am working alone in the office, usual hours, and our 3 part time community staff are also doing their hours out in the field. It is essential that the office remains accessible for the Community based workers so they can access the toilets and washing facilities.

Offers of help In the early days there were over 30 offers of help from local people none of which I could take up as it was impossible to follow the usual process of interviewing, checking & induction. That number is more than double what I would normally get in one quarter!  That said I had offers from 22 existing CGN volunteers to help with shopping and so on. so there has been no need to take on new people. Since then 4 of the CGN volunteers have stopped helping, as one has returned to nursing, or they were concerned that people were not socially distancing properly in the shops, or they had partners on the front line and wanted to minimise risk.

Volunteers, and staff, have been incredible and amazing, and all requests for help and support have been fulfilled. They really have been ‘good neighbours’ whether that be helping out practically or supporting older residents more emotionally, with the phone calls. We can be so proud of them all, and grateful that each has played their part in the community effort. It is interesting that the idea of being a ‘good neighbour’ has once again become central since our community has been under such a threat from COVID-19

Sadly one of our members died last week in hospital from COVID 19; she had received a regular visit from one of our volunteers since March 2015, when she had become virtually housebound as a result of her long term health conditions.

Other early offers of help: These varied from

  • Southways Housing offering drivers for deliveries,
  • Cracking Good food offering meals for us to take to people,
  • MMU students and Business in the Community offering to help where needed, (the latter with remote IT support for older members) and
  • two older clients offering money donations specifically if we needed to buy anything relating to the crisis.
  • Brookburn Primary school had collected lots of dry and tinned foodstuffs and they brought it to CGN, where we are storing it and gradually taking it to people as and when. If anyone is involved with any food banks and they run low of stock, then of course they are welcome to come and take what they need. I have given some goods to the Chorlton/West Didsbury foodbank.

What practical help are we offering?

  • Shopping for any CGN clients and new referrals
  • Prescription collection as requested
  • Physical check at the door and chat (at a social distance of course)
  • Delivery of emergency food and basic essential packs from Morrisons; so far Morrisons have donated 24 packs.

The office is still taking general calls, as we would normally, and referring and advising accordingly.

CGN has been very proactive in its advertising what support we can provide, through posters in sheltered schemes, website info, newsletters and email contacts with local colleagues. We are also featured in Manchester City Council’s  COVID-19 support and the Manchester hub hotline (0800 234 6123)

How are we keeping in touch with our older clients?

  • 2 newsletters have gone out so far, to the 250 older registered members, delivered by volunteers who are doing this as part of their exercise routine. The letters contain useful information e.g. Manchester Hub number, audiology contact for hearing aid batteries, social services contact centre as well as offering a reminder to the older clients of what we normally do e.g. celebrate birthdays, give exercise ideas and lockdown positive living tips etc. People really appreciate this form of contact, however old fashioned it may seem, and realise CGN is doing its best to keep in touch with them. I am aiming to send something out each month.
  • Updating the CGN website and Face Book page with regular items
  • Telephone support – 93 CGN clients are being telephoned by 19 volunteers, usually once per week. 8 of these clients have more than one volunteer phoning them.
  • 49 volunteers who usually home visit their older client are keeping in touch, mainly by phone or writing or knocking at the door a couple of times per week for 10 minutes, standing back. Some are also doing shopping for their clients as and when asked.
  • Tuesday Group: 3 volunteers are telephoning 15 parents to check how they are coping, and one volunteer is organising a small zoom chat with any mums wishing to join.
  • Positive Living Group facilitator Debra and I have discussed how best to keep in touch with the 20 regular attendees. Debra has been telephoning them and reports that in some ways she is getting to know people a little deeper as they are sharing more through the 1-1 calls. She is going to try and have small group chats with some of them if they would like it, through WhatsApp or Zoom, and is asking them to continue keeping their gratitude diary. All the PLG members contributed to the 2 positive living lock down tips which were printed off and delivered with the newsletters

Helen Hibberd
April 20th 2020




Covid-19 Support Figures 23/03/20 to 17/04/20
Total Number of inquiries 58
Previously Unknown to CGN 34
Inquiries from:     Ward:     Age:     Request:  
Self 25 Chorlton 24 70+ 38 Shopping 48
Family/Friend 4 Chorlton Park 26 60-70 11 Prescription 6
Manchester Hub 9 Whalley Range 3 < 60 7 General Services 2
Staff/Volunteer 6 Out of Area 5 Physical Check 2
Health 5
Social Services 2
Housing 6
Other 1  
Jobs carried out by Volunteers   Jobs carried out by 3 Community Staff      
Number of Clients 43 Number of Clients 81    
Shopping 61 Shopping 91
Prescription collected 4 Telephone Support 100
Physical checks 2 Physical checks 117
Emergency Food Parcels 24

N.B. These figures do not include any shopping, telephone calls or checks carried out by 49 volunteers in respect of their regular clients




Our Community Staff reflect on the current crisis:

Moira writes:  Things our older people are doing differently; Daily walks, Reading, watching Films, Jigsaws, Gardening; some of the things they do not normally do.


I feel that the majority of the clients I visit have accepted the current situation and have adapted extremely well and all observe the social distancing and are taking care of themselves.

The ones who also attend CGN say how much they are missing the coffee mornings and trips, and generally meeting up with the others they have formed friendships with, and will ask me about the others. I am aware some do keep in contact by phone.

A couple of ladies I visit live near each other and would normally visit each other in their homes; however, they still meet every day and go for a socially distanced walk weather permitting. Alternatively, they phone each other.

I have a couple of older clients who have mental health issues and overall they are coping with the social isolation well, however one has regular carers, the other has not, and I have noticed a deterioration in her mental state. She is however involved with adult MH services and is able to access this albeit a fortnightly phone call, but they do have an out of hours phone line which she is aware of.


My Views

As a community support worker, I continue to see most of my caseload of clients on a weekly basis so still having Face to Face contact so that’s good.

I am therefore able to check on them and also go and do any shopping they require. However, I feel this has taken their independence away and most of the ones I used to take out liked to ponder over their shopping and enjoyed the car ride and a change of scene. I also miss this as this used to be a space for them to chat about things good and bad and have a coffee out and have a laugh. Door step chats do not match this.

So, my role has changed into being practical, brief chat, go for the shopping and then dropping it off, and having to queue to get into supermarkets which is a necessary evil but also time consuming.


One of my ladies has recently lost a very dear friend and due to the current restrictions will be unable to attend her funeral which I know has really affected her and was making her feel sad and low. I was fortunate to meet this person who died, so was able to empathise with her loss.

As the weather had been so nice this week, I suggested to my lady that when I called, we could perhaps sit in the garden which she agreed to. So on arrival she had the table and chairs in her garden and had made a coffee, I was therefore able to sit ( socially distanced) and have a chat with her,  and she was able to reminisce about her friend, with tears and laughter, which in some small way helped her and she felt lighter in her mood.


So, the bit I miss most is the emotional support; being able to make them a drink, put shopping away; doing little jobs for them and giving them a hug when appropriate.


Older Men’s Worker Phil says: In general, the clients are not doing much differently, apart from staying home. Although, some are seeing more of their relatives where possible. Our clients look forward to seeing us. A lot of the clients do not find change easy. For some, not having an hour’s chat with us is particularly difficult, as they cannot find alternative company to chat to.

Some of our clients find it difficult to understand the seriousness of the situation we are in, and so expect us to continue to work as we usually would do. They either still go to shake my hand and invite me into their home, even though I have expressed my concerns regarding the current situation. Some clients do not understand why it would be dangerous to travel in the same car.


Worker Diane reflects on the impacts: Some of the older people that I visit are very isolated over this period. They may not have any family support. In other cases, families have cancelled carers in fear that their relative may contract the virus from them.

Before the virus some older / isolated people had resisted implementing any support in the way of carers/ shoppers and therefore had nothing in place once social isolation began, and they couldn’t get their own shopping.

I feel that over this time many (not all) have been well looked after in terms of shopping, by families and neighbours and other community groups. However, many have said to me that they don’t like to keep asking or being dependent on neighbours or friends, and that they feel relieved that they have had a regular shopping slot with us at this time instead of being dependant on others ; especially when people won’t take the money for the shopping or can’t say when the shopping will happen.
I feel that the area where they have really needed us, and felt the impact of our support the most, is in knowing that someone is there for them to chat to and break up the isolation a little. I have been able to convince them to stay home and stay safe, pick up prescriptions for them and chase up other issues or concerns that are troubling them.  At times I have managed to sit with them outside (at a distance) and spend up to an hour chatting with them. I feel that knowing we are there had made a huge difference to their mental health.  Some people like longer chats, but others have benefitted from shorter more frequent visits. Also, seeing people more regularly has been insightful as I have been able to pick up more on memory issues.


Thoughts from some volunteers and older members

86 year CGN member Joan writes: The thing I miss most and possibly like everyone else is shopping and meeting people face to face. The exercises are helping, but not quite the same as having Don telling us about his cat and the chats afterwards over a cup of tea. Just miss everything about Good Neighbours and I’m one of the lucky ones I still have my husband here.


Volunteer Bob who is telephoning some older residents says: What really comes across is the fear of not getting their medication. Pharmacies are not delivering the regular prescriptions at the right times. This maybe understandable but at the same time if you have heart condition or a life-threatening illness it is important that you do not run out of medication. I hear this from all the ladies.

They have a regular delivery and because of the situation the pharmacies are overrun, they tried phoning to no avail, then they look for friends to pick up the medication. As I said it is understandable and no one’s fault, but puts added stress on the elderly with very little to do.


Volunteer Trish, also phoning some regular activity members says: All my ladies are doing fine; they all really appreciate having a chat with someone. They’re all in good spirits. All are managing food wise too with a combination of family, neighbours and deliveries keeping them stocked up. They do miss the coffee mornings though. 


Volunteer Andrew reports: Apart from phoning clients I am sowing as many vegetables as I can and am outdoors at least 4 hours a day. In lock down I am feeling positive and by the end of summer I am hoping to share my produce with everyone at Chorlton Good Neighbour’s!!!

My clients are so appreciative of me phoning them it really does make their day .They feel that someone cares. It is great for them to hear a friendly voice, and it is great for me as it makes me very humble 



Older Chorlton resident John tells us: I can’t get out, I am dependent on other people so I am getting frustrated. I like to go to the shops and pick my own stuff. That’s why volunteer Cathy is so good as she gets what I want and uses her initiative to get other things if what I have asked for is not in the shop.



Thank you: It is good to end on a positive note so here are a couple of examples of emails received during the past couple of weeks


Dear Helen and Good Neighbours,


Thanks so much for visiting my mum  during distancing. Although she is quite a self-contained person, she has really appreciated the visits, from Moira and also the two Morrisons parcels – particularly the bread and Easter egg! She is well-stocked but it is a great comfort to me and my sister that she continues to receive local visits as we are not on the doorstep.  Thanks also for the newsletters with useful information especially about hearing aid maintenance, which may well come in useful.


This is only the latest instalment of help she’s had from Good Neighbours over the years, including when she was much fitter and used to play snooker at the cricket club.


All much appreciated especially now,




Hi Helen


Mum was very pleased to receive the birthday card from the group recently, it certainly brightened her day, and she asked me to pass on her thanks. 


I took her for a walk last week and Moira was passing in her car and stopped for a (socially distanced) chat.  She passed on the Easter gift from the group, so thank you for that also. 


These small things really help to brighten up the lives of the elderly in these difficult times, I think CGN is doing a great job to try and keep peoples’ spirits up.


I was impressed that Moira had been shopping for 5 people that day, Mum is OK though, we are helping to keep her fully stocked at the moment.





Dear Helen.

Can you please convey my heartfelt thanks to Elke and Steve for doing my shop last week?  It was very much appreciated. kind regards   A


Dear Helen,

Thank you for your new newsletter, you are enabling us to reach out to others thank you. Love the exercises, now to the quiz we need the answers please. LOL.

I hope you and your family are keeping well, as I am at the moment. It is an awful time we are living through at the moment, but we have to make the decisions to stay in, but oh I so miss my family.

Please take care and pass my good wishes on to all who are helping you to write, deliver them. May the Lord keep you all safe. Yours Sue