‘Amazing sense of community’ as firm helps stranded elderly residents to stay in touch with support network

Liquid 11 team working on the Somerleyton phone project ahead of the coronavirus lockdown from left,

Liquid 11 team working on the Somerleyton phone project ahead of the coronavirus lockdown from left, Christopher Venables, Sebastian Szostkiewicz, Ben Regan, Ryan Moyce and George Saint Picture: GRANT HARDY - Credit: Archant

A team of technicians have pulled out all the stops to help an isolated community of mainly elderly people to stay in touch with services during the coronavirus lockdown.

Liquid 11 launched Pocket Receptionist with the help of a New Anglia LEP grant. Pictured is boss Gr

Liquid 11 launched Pocket Receptionist with the help of a New Anglia LEP grant. Pictured is boss Grant Hardy Picture: JAMES BASS - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2016

Working in their own time and for free, the team at Lowestoft-based Liquid 11 - which recently launched a telephone answering business called Pocket Receptionist – came to the aid of residents of Somerleyton, many of whom were already self-isolating.

Liquid 11 boss Grant Hardy said they wanted to help a community local to their business, by supporting residents already isolated.

“It’s a phone line that can be called by locals in isolation and it connects them to a team of volunteer support workers,” he explained.

“It’s a single phone number that connects to different team members at different times. It also allows for messages to be left and email to the teams and a main menu to be turned on, ie, press one to get help with shopping, press two to chat to someone in the village.

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“Calls can then be directed automatically to volunteers home phone numbers, they can be updated and changes instantly at any time via a web page or mobile app.”

The team got involved after being approached by community stalwart and Somerleyton, Ashby and Herringfleet parish councillor Claire Diggins.

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“She wanted a way to put local people that are isolated in contact with local volunteers. We were happy to help and built this for the parish for free,” said Mr Hardy.

“We thought it such a good idea, our staff went onto built an automated version, in their own time over the last few evenings, for everyone in the UK to use. It’s free to use and we are paying for all redirect costs.”

The firm said it hoped the new system would be a help to local communities, particularly rural and remote ones.

Ms Diggins said the response from Mr Hardy, whom she had know for a number of years, was “swift and generous” after she approached him about setting up a helpline infrastructure.

A large percentage of the parish was over 70, and with the parish council looking at resilience planning in response to the coronavirus crisis, she wanted to make sure there was a “robust community support system” for those residents, she explained.

“A number of people had volunteered spontaneously to support vulnerable people in the community and were discussing how best to organise this support.”

The Somerleyton Estate had also offered its support, she said.

“It was clear to me that we had all the components of a robust community support system in place and all that was required was a means of co-ordinating this response - especially taking into account the possibility that some of the volunteers may themselves need to self-isolate at some stage,” she explained.

“By co-ordinating our support, we could reduce the number of trips that need to be made by individual volunteers to collect provisions, thereby reducing our risk of infection.”

She asked Mr Hardy to set up a dedicated helpline operating on a virtual switchboard system to allow the parish support group to divert calls to five co-ordinators, with each number being rung in sequence until someone answers.

“The co-ordinator, who could be someone self-isolating at home, could then contact one of the volunteers from a list in relation to the requirement whether it be practical or pastoral support.”

Liquid 11 donated a free number to the group and had it set up by the next day, she said.

“There is an amazing sense of community in Somerleyton and a number of people have acted as a catalyst for this helpline and support network. I am thrilled that we have been able to put something in place so quickly and immensely grateful to Grant for making it happen,” she said.

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