29 April 2020

Press release - Coronavirus support line set up to provide listening ear and help people affected by pandemic

British Red Cross has set up a free phone line to help people facing a range of issues due to coronavirus and the lockdown period.

Members of the 'psychosocial and mental health' team at the British Red Cross will be on-hand to provide practical and emotional support, for anything from accessing food or medicines to dealing with loneliness.

The Red Cross coronavirus support line telephone number is 0808 196 3651 and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. The service is free, and completely confidential.

Norman McKinley, British Red Cross executive director of UK operations said:

“We want to make sure that people are getting the help they need during the isolation period. We’re especially worried about those who may not be in contact with organisations or support networks, who could ‘fall through the cracks’. Our volunteers are taking calls from people who are struggling to get hold of medicines or food – especially those who are shielding at the moment.

“Our volunteers are all trained in psycho-social skills. They can provide a listening ear, practical advice, and signpost people to organisations in their area that can help. Having someone on the end of the phone when you feel most alone can be a lifeline in times like this.”

The Red Cross coronavirus support line will be staffed by experienced Red Cross psychosocial volunteers, many of whom have worked on previous emergency responses. British Red Cross have activated the Support line to help people during the infected blood enquiry, the Grenfell Tower fire and the terror attacks of 2017.

British Red Cross volunteers are already working in communities across the UK to support those made most vulnerable by the coronavirus outbreak, from food distributions to ambulance support and welfare checks.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the free Red Cross coronavirus support line on 0808 196 3651 to speak to a friendly British Red Cross volunteer.


Case study – support line volunteer Chris

Chris, 64, has volunteered and worked for British Red Cross for 35 years, and comes from a nursing background. Usually she would travel overseas to help Brits caught up in emergencies, like the Tunisia beach attach in 2015. She also looked after people during the London bombings. Now she is shielding at home to protect her husband, but still able to volunteer for the Red Cross coronavirus support line.

Chris is now doing six shifts a week on the support line as a supervisor and call handler.

“Normally I would have been going out and doing something but I can't because I’m at home,” Chris said.

“The fact that I am able to be part of this response from home is uplifting and enabling me to play my part. We are using different modes of communication WhatsApp, Zoom, email, telephone ... it is a new and exciting but challenging way to form a team and get the job done.”

“A lot of the calls are from people who need urgent shopping. They've either managed on their store cupboard for a while, and a neighbour has been getting them some milk and bread in the interim, but they haven't had a proper shop for quite a while.

“We've been getting more and more calls recently about urgent medicines because people are running out of medicines or need specialist cancer drugs picking up and delivering to them.

“Some people are ringing just because they're lonely and want to chat. I had a lovely chat with an older lady about her garden and what she was going to plant and the fact she didn't have any seeds. So I made some suggestion about where they could get some seeds by post and she went away quite cheery to think that she can probably get some plants and do a little bit in her garden.”

Volunteers from the support line can refer people to local projects, or contact Red Cross community teams who can help.

“I had one colleague who had somebody on the phone and they'd been trying for two weeks to get their cancer drugs and they now only had two days left of them so I put that through as urgent to our team. There was another person who we felt was very vulnerable and needed some sort of physical visit. We marked that one as well as urgent. So you can flag the really important ones to the team and make sure that they get dealt with as priority cases.”

For more information