A LONG-STANDING charity serving some of the most vulnerable Irish people in London claims the mental and physical wellbeing of their clients is continually being challenged amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Launched 25 years ago, the Camden-based Aisling Project supports isolated and vulnerable long-term emigrants and reconnects them with their homeland and relatives in Ireland.
Many of their clients are homeless, or have alcohol or drug dependencies, and Aisling provides a constant support network for them from their north London base.
Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to engulf Britain, their clients are at an increased risk, the charity told The Irish Post this week.
“Now we are facing a new challenge and must adapt to the unexpected dangers presented by Covid-19,” they explain.
“Of course, everyone in the world has to deal with the virus and separation from loved ones but our clients are already vulnerable, already isolated.
“Aisling has had to find imaginative ways to support or clients during the outbreak and for the last two months we have been maintaining contact on a daily basis and delivering essential goods and services to those in need.”
Despite the lockdown, the charity has continued to support its 200 or more clients, who rely on their contact and reassurance, through their outreach and befriending services.
“Aisling clients and volunteers are contacted on a daily basis making enquiries about their condition in a constantly changing environment, offering advice on welfare, housing, health and other pressing issues as well as offering befriending and support during these times of uncertainty and isolation,” the organisation explains.
“[We have] continued to supply food and other essential supplies to our most vulnerable clients,” they added.
As the crisis has continued the charity has extended the services it offers, including booking clients in for deliveries from food banks, providing supermarket vouchers to those who are able to get to the shops and putting together toiletries bags - including basic personal hygiene products - for others.
“When money is tight and shopping is logistically so difficult these are often the items that are neglected but which are vital during these times when keeping clean is of such importance,” they explain.
However, there are issues being faced by Aisling clients that are not so easily addressed.
“Alcohol and dependency issues continue during the pandemic and can often become even more problematic,” they confirm.
“We have clients who are booked in for detoxes which are all located outside London now and must be accompanied.
“Others are drinking at home now rather than in pubs and will find that their capacity will increase.”
They add: “Street drinkers have been moved on during this pandemic but lately, particularly since relaxation of the lockdown rules and advice, many of our clients are gathering in parks and at benches etc. for company and are once more drinking in groups, returning to old habits and behaviour, having a negative effect on good mental and physical wellbeing.”
Loneliness and isolation has also become a major issue for many already suffering from these problems within their client base.
“Keeping clients in touch with their families is a big part of our work and while we are not able to physically bring people home to visit families maintaining familial links is vital to our mission,” the charity admits.
“Regular phone contact helps so much in this regard and we are providing phones to individuals who have may never had such a device, but which now has become a necessary and vital communication tool.
“As well as telephone contact everyone enjoys getting correspondence through the post, and recently we sent out an information newsletter containing useful contacts for support, advice and essential services available in all parts of London.
“We also sent out a personal post card this week to each client let them know we are thinking of them and that we are there for them whenever we are needed.”
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