Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Carol Answers the Call to Action
Sitting in her living room in Knightswood, Carol Smith’s phone is literally ‘ringing off the hook’. Each day between 9am and 1pm the volunteer’s phone sounds constantly as she receives call after call from people all over Glasgow struggling with lockdown life.
When she volunteered for this Glasgow Helps role in addition to her job within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, she couldn’t imagine that she would be in her sixth week and the call volume doesn’t look like lessening any time soon.
Glasgow Helps is a partnership between Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS), Volunteer Glasgow, Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. The hub, phone line and website was established by GCVS in response to the lockdown and growing number of people having to self-isolate during the crisis.
Callers are directed to a range of charities and voluntary groups across the city who have sprung into action to offer help.
Usually based in their Scottish Fire and Rescue Service hub in Calton, Carol, with 27 years’ service, is a Community Safety Advocate in the Community Action Team, tasked with promoting fire prevention and giving fire risk recognition training.
Her and her five colleagues all volunteered to answer calls and knew that their day jobs, engaging with particularly high risk groups including those with addictions, mental health problems and the elderly, would serve them well when understanding what practical and emotional support callers need.
Carol, who describes herself as being a listening ear at the end of the line, said; “The majority of calls have been about accessing food, prescription pick-ups and getting financial advice and support. But I’ve also found that more and more people are lonely and just want a chat, so we have had quite a few referrals to befriending groups.”
She continued; ”Sometimes repeat callers like to deal with the same person as there is a trust and rapport there and the team will try to make that happen.”
The Glasgow Helps call handlers have web sources, directories and information sheets to assist and then there’s also their MS Teams group, where they are able to help each other with the more unusual questions, as well as keeping morale up.
One elderly lady caller sticks in Carol’s mind as she sounded vulnerable with little family support, but didn’t feel that she merited help. Carol explained; “People have never been in this situation before. They feel lonely, anxious, vulnerable, but also proud and particularly older generations feel almost embarrassed or reluctant to ask for too much help. They also don’t realise that there is a wealth of support out there.”
“I spend a lot of my time reassuring people that there is enough support out there for everyone and that we can help with more than the basics. You tend to find the more you speak with someone that they are struggling in other areas and you go beyond the original reason for the call.”
For Carol this is why she took on the role, she says; “For me it’s about knowing that I’m helping people in need. I listen to their situations, hear about all their fears and worries and then try and help as best I can, both practically and sometimes emotionally. I feel that I’m playing my small part during this time of crisis and will do so for many weeks to come, I’m sure.”
Glasgow residents who need support while self-isolating or in lockdown can phone 0141 345 0543 for help or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
People can also visit the website at www.glasgowhelps.org