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Service bringing chat and cheer to older people in the Highlands sees more referrals since start of coronavirus pandemic

By Val Sweeney

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Sheila Robb with Nadine Morrison, co-ordinator of Morning Call and Visiting Service.
Sheila Robb with Nadine Morrison, co-ordinator of Morning Call and Visiting Service.

A lifeline service which aims to reduce social isolation among older people in the Highlands is seeing an increasing number referrals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Morning Call, based in Inverness, delivers a free daily call service to clients needing the reassurance of someone checking in on how they are doing.

Currently, the charity provides 50 calls a day – sometimes the only voice the clients will hear – while it has had to stop its visiting service and housebound library service due to the pandemic.

Service co-ordinator Nadine Morrison said the number of daily calls made by a team of volunteers has increased particularly in the last two months.

"They are becoming more crucial," she said. "We are finding the older people we work with are finding it very hard.

"The activities they would normally go to such as clubs or church are not happening at all.

"Having that daily morning call has made a big difference to them.

"It is having a wee chat in the morning and it is also a safety net because if the call goes unanswered, or we cannot get hold of a client, we have an emergency contact or someone to go and check on them and make sure they are OK."

At Christmas, the organisation linked up with the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Trust for this year’s Festive Friends at Home campaign to identify those most at risk of social isolation.

It was part of an initiative involving the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) Trust, community trusts and associated SPFL clubs which delivered more than 2800 Christmas gift boxes to people.

It has been running for five years but SPFL clubs usually host a three-course Christmas lunch with entertainment at their home stadium.

Due to Covid-19, this year the clubs took festive cheer and companionship to people’s doorsteps with deliveries of gift boxes.

In the Inverness area, 21 hampers were delivered including one to Sheila Robb (83) whose husband passed away a couple of years ago.

Her sons both live in England and she also has a 27-year-old granddaughter but has not been able to see the family due to the pandemic.

Mrs Robb was initially unsure about joining Morning Call but now appreciates her daily calls from four different volunteers working on a rota basis.

"They are very kind ladies who take the time to think of someone who is on their own," she said.

"It is an excellent system."

She was thrilled to be presented with a Christmas hamper.

"It really was a boost to my larder and mood, a nice young man delivered it to my door," she said, "I thought it was my birthday!"

Read the Festive Friends at Home report at spfltrust.org.uk/festivefriends

Related story: Inverness group hits jackpot with lottery funding.

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