‘All it takes is for someone to pop next door and just check people are ok’

Behind closed doors.

Here at Suffolk Circle, we responded to the recent bad weather not by convening action groups, or panels of well-meaning individuals to discuss action but by taking that action ourselves and hitting the streets, snow shovels and rock salt in hand. We visited a few hundred people, and the results were shocking.

The first individual we saw is 93 years old, comfortably off and living in his own very tidy bungalow on a very nice residential estate in Bury St Edmunds. He answered the door in a thick coat, scarf and hat and was noticeably shivering. When questioned, he couldn’t see well enough to turn the heating up as his eyesight has deteriorated. We, of course, popped in and turned the heating up. A two second job, which made him more comfortable again and took away those long, cold miserable days and nights. We also made contact with Action for Blind People (with his permission of course) who are going to contact him shortly about his eyesight and help him as much as they can. Suffolk Circle can and will help him with transport to and from the hospital, installing any equipment he may need and keep a regular eye on him.

The second individual was a lady, who wasn’t a member of ours and looked to be in her late 60’s. I knocked on her door, spoke to her about Suffolk Circle and told her about the promotion we were running. She wasn’t interested (I was dressed in a thick body warmer and a hoodie, and although I had my ID badge still looked pretty frightening to an older lady living on her own I’m sure!). She was just about to shut the door, when I asked her if she needed her drive clearing as it was covered in snow and ice. She paused, and looked suspicious. I told her it was absolutely free, and I would be back in an hour to do it for her. I didn’t want anything from her, and was genuinely just holding out the hand (or snow shovel!) of community spirit. An hour or so later we turned up, cleared her drive and started talking. It turns out the lady hadn’t been out for 11 days as she couldn’t get the car out of the drive and daren’t walk on the driveway. Her mobility was fine, no need for sticks, frames or scooters. She lived in the middle of the same housing estate as the first man but was completely cut off behind her own front door.

These aren’t isolated cases, and Suffolk Circle isn’t by any means the only organisation doing this stuff and responding to the cold weather in this way. There are countless organisations trying to help out, and mostly doing a great job. We work with these organisations more and more, and are proud to be part of the Warm Homes Healthy People scheme in Suffolk. The point I am trying to make is that if these people were better connected; to each other, to us, to their communities this wouldn’t happen. All it takes is for someone to pop next door and just check people are ok.

One thought on “‘All it takes is for someone to pop next door and just check people are ok’”

  1. I have been thinking about this for a bit, and I think the reason this occurs is due to the collective societal belief that ‘other people’ should/would do this. We don’t want to get involved, or pop next door for fear of interfering in something that is traditionally seen as the role of the welfare state. The problem occurs when:

    a) the welfare state relies on criteria and crises for intervention, whereas the vast majority of the people we come into contact with do not, should not and will not receive statutory services. However, the needs are just the same at points. Needs fluctuate, and ‘the system’ doesn’t.
    b) the welfare state cannot cope with the increasing numbers of older people, set against the backdrop of severe cuts.

    It is simply not true that the people living next door to the individuals described above (and countless others) don’t care, or wouldn’t lend a hand if they were asked. The point is that asking is difficult, and offering even more so. This game-changing bank of ‘community capital’ exists, and it is my strong belief that this can be unlocked and used for the benefit of everyone.

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