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Tech start-up collaborates with Yorkshire charities to deliver app for vulnerable in just five days

Tech start-up Novoville Ltd and public sector transformation firm Peopletoo Ltd, have partnered with Yorkshire Children’s Centre (YCC) and Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees (C&K) to deliver an app which supports the charities’ telephone befriending service, for the district’s most vulnerable people.

Set up to help the charities manage demand for the new programme – which pairs volunteers with those most at risk of social disconnection and loneliness – the GetVolunteering app was designed, developed, tested and set live in just five days, funded by the Government’s Covid-19 tech fund scheme.

The system-integrated app technology allows both of the charities to analyse call data and spot trends – relating to peak call times plus frequently discussed topics – and keep better connected to their volunteer base.

Volunteers use the GetVolunteering app to log their calls and any safeguarding concerns, which then feeds through to the YCC and Age UK C&K systems – allowing staff to identify where further mental health, financial or social support may need to be deployed.

Since the service was set up – during the start of the lockdown period – in April, the charities have recorded over 1,600 calls, provided 800 hours of support, welcomed 150 new volunteers on board, and matched more than 260 people with ‘befrienders’.

Commenting on the project, Jane Sykes, head of early intervention and prevention services at Yorkshire Children’s Centre, said: “Due to COVID-19, we had to act fast to help prevent social isolation from skyrocketing in the community – setting up the new processes, phone lines and training new volunteers over Zoom in intensive 30-minute ‘crash-courses’.

“The app development has been an integral part of helping us to achieve this – allowing us to use information gathered from our volunteers to strategically plan and be proactive with our community messaging.”

Age UK C&K’s chief executive Lisa Butland added: “With the winter season almost upon us and the service showing no sign of slowing, we need volunteers more than ever before.

“At the start, we were inundated with requests to provide assistance. However, now people have gone back to work, these figures are reducing – but the number of vulnerable individuals in the community isn’t.

“We’re continuing to ‘rally the troops’ to get more people donating 30 minutes out of their weekly schedule to make a call – this seemingly small gesture really does help make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of the district’s vulnerable people.

“It’s been a real pleasure working with Novoville and Peopletoo. We’re so grateful for the donation of their expertise, in helping us to streamline and automate the way we gather and review our service-user data.

“It’s proven critical in helping us to develop our increased support levels and meet increased demand. This tech will definitely be in place for many years to come.”

The Yorkshire-based charities – in association with Novoville and Peopletoo – hope to further build upon the GetVolunteering app’s capabilities over the coming months, to create a ‘volunteer community’, which will enable befrienders to contact one another via instant messaging, to provide peer-to-peer support.

Anyone can call the telephone befriending phone line on 01484 411071, or email befriendingpartnership@ageuk.org.uk for a referral form. and empower our volunteers.

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