An innovative volunteering project has allowed employees at Newcastle Building Society help isolated and older people in the North East with more than 500 tasks since it was launched last year.
Working in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and ‘tech for good’ company onHand, the Society is using an app to connect its team of colleague volunteers with people in the region who need help with simple tasks, or even just a regular chat to combat feelings of isolation.
More than 500 volunteering ‘missions’ have now been completed by Society colleagues, supporting people in their communities with activities such as shopping, errands, prescription collection, companionship calls and even gardening.
Volunteering opportunities using the onHand app are typically completed in under an hour. This so-called ‘micro-volunteering’ means colleagues can fit tasks around their work day and still make a real difference. Through shopping alone, employees have delivered a grand total of 690 meals to residents in the region.
Stuart Miller, Customer director at Newcastle Building Society, said: “Supporting our communities lies at the heart of our Purpose and as a Society we’re committed to helping people who need it. The pandemic has meant that colleagues have not been able to take part in volunteering activities in the normal way, so micro-volunteering thanks to our partnership with onHand and NICA has been particularly relevant in helping colleagues engage with the community and provide valuable support.
“Potentially, this technology could revolutionise the approach to volunteering beyond the pandemic and into the years ahead, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how the initiative grows.”
People who need help with simple tasks can request help through onHand and calls for help have come from all over the North East, although requests for companionship calls have been received from right across the country. Since the app launched in the North East, Newcastle Building Society colleagues have completed more than 200 hours of befriending phone calls, supporting the most isolated and vulnerable people, and creating many new friendships in the process.
Chief onHander, Sanjay Lobo said: “Tech is at the forefront of most of our lives. From online shopping, to what we watch, to how we connect with friends... and now, for a lot of us, work is even more tech-dependent. It makes sense to use technology to address the ongoing social care crisis.
“We are over the moon to see the success of onHand in the North East and that we’ve helped to keep the Society employees engaged with doing good in their community. Really looking forward to the next stage of our partnership with Newcastle Building Society!”
At a time when loneliness and mental health issues are on the rise due to the pandemic, onHand has not only given the Society a way to support their community, it has also provided colleagues with a positive boost. When asked to rate how much volunteering with onHand has benefitted their mental health and wellbeing, 100% of respondents said it had a positive impact on their wellbeing.
Iain MacLeod, who works at Newcastle Building Society and has completed over 50 different tasks through the onHand app, said: “I jumped at the chance to sign up because I love being able to help out and think now more than ever, we need to look out for each other. I’ve done some gardening, shopping, and some companionship calls and although the tasks aren’t difficult I know they mean a lot to the people we’re helping.”
Newcastle Building Society and onHand will be continuing to work together continuing to deliver essentials, help with errands and provide much needed companionship to thousands more people across the North East.