Volunteers Week: Care homes in England

Below is a blog post by Settled volunteer Carolyn Lyle, written for Volunteers Week 2021

It was in the early spring of 2020 that my friends in Berkshire for Europe were cooperating with Settled in planning ways to reach out to EU citizens in the UK who were experiencing difficulty in getting Settled Status, or who were not even aware that they needed it. The most attractive solution appeared to be Euro Cafes, where EU citizens living in the UK would be invited to pop in to town centre venues for coffee, cake, and helpful advice on all aspects of getting Settled Status. But as the publicity campaign increased in intensity, so did the effects of the pandemic, and lockdown foiled our plans. Still, there had to be something we could do. The one certainty to cling to was that, so long as we took adequate precautions, anything we did must improve the situation.

Different people did different things: my own top priority was care homes, because I thought they were likely to contain some particularly vulnerable people, including, but not restricted to, those whose age, attendant infirmities, and general circumstances made it hard for them to keep track of their documentation, exercise the necessary technological skills, and resist the temptation to give up in despair. I shared my thoughts with many people, including all 47 members of Reading Borough Council, Berkshire for Europe, one of whom showed me the best way to contact the care homes, and the Settled leadership, who supported my efforts generously and recruited the most amazingly efficient, brilliant, and energetic team. It was going to be impossible to contact every single care home in the time available, so the strategy was to contact the head office of every group of 4 or more care homes, and concentrate our remaining efforts on as many homes as possible in groups of 2 or 3, and on single homes. The great majority of our work was by email: emails are easier to pass around than letters, and less likely to carry infection, so not so likely to be regarded with suspicion by care homes. (As a matter of fact I sent dozens of letters to care homes and head offices for whom email addresses were unavailable, but always in peel and seal envelopes.) I have also made telephone calls when they seemed necessary, and had some very encouraging conversations with managers who have helped their EU residents make their applications.

As it turns out, our efforts were justified: when statistics did appear, they included 1 EU care worker in 7 being unaware of the need for Settled Status and 30% of EU children in care for whom applications had not been made by May 2021. There is still work to be done over the next few days, and I shall be spending my late May bank holiday glued to my laptop. It will be worth it: I may get to help somebody, even if I never know who they are, and, however hard the work is, I shall know that, thanks to the efforts of my old friends on Berkshire for Europe and my new friends in Settled, I am never alone.

Carolyn Lyle

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