The work of the British Red Cross during Covid-19

Written by Anna Bishop
Jan 13, 2021

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

The coronavirus outbreak is the greatest global health emergency in living memory, and it has affected the way we all go about our daily lives. For over 150 years, the British Red Cross has supported people in the UK in times of crisis. The ongoing, ever-changing situation around the Covid-19 pandemic is no exception. Our network of incredible staff and volunteers have formed part of the world’s frontline response to the virus, helping the most vulnerable to keep safe and healthy.

Mobility aids

Our mobility aids service has provided more than 57,000 people with mobility aids such as wheelchairs and beds. Our partnership with Big Yellow Storage enabled us to store wheelchairs after many of our volunteers were required to self-isolate, closing many locations.

Coronavirus support line

Our free and confidential coronavirus support line launched in April, providing advice for those needing help in accessing food, medication or emotional support for those feeling lonely. We have been a listening ear for over 11,000 support line calls.

Home from hospital

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our ambulance teams have transported over 18,000 people safely home from hospital, a quarter of those transported home, were helped as part of our Covid-19 response.

Delivery of food and medicines

We have cooked meals for key workers and shopped for people who couldn’t go out safely. Our volunteers have delivered to people who have been shielding at home, those who are recently out of hospital, and to vulnerable refugees and people seeking asylum. In total, since March, we’ve made over 13,000 medicine deliveries and over 85,000 food deliveries.

Donna Barraclough, Service Coordinator Support at Home, said “We were given 540 jars of peanut butter that was meant to go to the Olympic team and we also received a recipe for peanut butter chicken from the Congo.”

Help for refugees

Since March, the British Red Cross has provided accommodation advice to nearly 3,000 vulnerable refugees and people seeking asylum and has provided more than 6,000 food parcels. We adapted our refugee community support services to keep people grounded and connected as much as possible. Our refugee centre in Hackney, East London, remained open during lockdown at a reduced capacity.

Mobilising kindness

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve mobilised thousands of kind people. Redeployed staff have been a lifeline for the independent living and crisis response services, by providing much needed capacity on the ground. There are so many essential roles: IT support, independent living, crisis response, refugee services, mobility aids, etc. Ultimately the focus is the same and one thing is always certain – that there is pride in the work we all continue to do.

We have also helped other organisations and directed the kindness of our corporate partners. Since the nationwide lockdown first came into effect in March, more than 79,000 people have signed up to give their time as community reserve volunteers (CRVs).

Issle Inglis of the British Red Cross said, “I signed up as a driver and in the first instance it was about delivering PPE.”

Adapting to the challenges at hand

There is no ‘business as usual’ anymore; there is only adapting to the challenges at hand and responding to crisis, which is the in the DNA of the British Red Cross. To offer guidance, we curated several mental health resources; including advice from mental health professionals and actionable tips on how to prioritise mental wellbeing and navigate this period of uncertainty.

Whilst our face-to-face learning was postponed, we provided free access to our online first aid annual skills update course, helping organisations to maintain their level of first aid cover, by enabling people to keep their first aid skills up to date in safe way.

In addition, we created free teaching resources to help enrich curriculum subjects and connect human crisis with human kindness.

Looking ahead

Alexander Matheou, executive director of International at the British Red Cross said:

“We must continue to have the hope that, if we all pull together, we can turn the tide of the pandemic, support the most vulnerable through this crisis and learn lessons about how we can better protect each other and our environment in the future.”

Show your kindness

By supporting the British Red Cross, you're supporting someone who needs help, when they need it, in the ways they need it most. A small act of kindness can change someone’s life. Click here to make a donation.

However, much time you have and whatever your experience, there are lots of UK volunteering opportunities at the British Red Cross - especially during the pandemic. Find volunteering opportunities here.

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Topics: First Aid

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