Suffolk Virtual Care Response Service

Virtual care support to help vulnerable or isolated people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Suffolk Virtual Care Response Service is a free service for people who are vulnerable or isolated due to the coronavirus pandemic, and have little or no technological ability.

If you're eligible for the service, you'll receive an device called a Video Carephone.

Your carers, family members and friends will be able to video call you via the Carephone to provide you with care and support virtually rather than face-to-face. You will also be able to use the carephone to video call them. This will help to protect both you and them from the risk of infection.

Read our case studies stories about users and care providers.

We're working with Alcove and RETHINK Partners to roll out the Suffolk Virtual Care Response. This service forms part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Suffolk.

Who can use this service

This service is for vulnerable people who do not have existing access to technology, and:

  • receive or need care at home and could have some of their care tasks done virtually using a Carephone device instead of face-to-face during this time. This won’t replace essential face-to-face care visits.
  • are isolated or shielding due to the coronavirus pandemic, and need to use a Carephone to stay connected with family or friends to support their care needs and wellbeing.

Contact us via the Adult Care Portal if you or someone you know could be eligible and benefit from a Carephone.

How we stay connected with people

Download infographic that explains about Suffolk Virtual Care Response Service is being delivered (PDF, 1MB)

About the Video Carephone

The Video Carephone is a communication device similar to a mobile phone or tablet. You can have a two-way video call with:

  • care and support providers
  • up to three family members or friends
  • approved professionals

The Carephone is extremely easy to use, even if you have little or no experience with using technology. Everything will be set up for you, so all you need to do is turn it on. You do not need wi-fi for the carephone to work.

Your caregivers or support network will then be able to use the Carephone to video call you and carry out whatever tasks are required.

Please be aware that the Carephone  can only be used to complete video calls, and cannot be used to find information or carry out tasks online, or access social networking sites.

The Carephone will be on short-term loan during the coronavirus pandemic and should not be considered a way to meet long-term support needs.

Case studies stories

Find a story about how Suffolk Virtual Care Response Service has helped services and users.

Potsford Care Services Ltd in Suffolk encompasses a Care Farm (Day Service) and is a Community Support agency – where they currently support 17 people in their own homes.

Potsford

Kevin - Potsford Care Services Limited

Their Community Support varies but can include personal care visits as well as a lot of social support - getting out and about and meeting people. They help people maintain their own homes and provide additional support activities.

They have two residents who are now using the Video Alcove and have found it very beneficial. One of the recipients is Bryan, who they have been supporting for three years with Activities of Daily Living - including household activities, such as cleaning, shopping and sometimes cooking and trialling recipes.

Bryan has a Learning Disability and some health issues and, while not shielding, he is vulnerable. Before Covid-19, he received support from Potsford Care Services, and also from another provider called Artbox. Bryan enjoyed seeing his friends at Artbox, and taking trips to see the farm animals at Potsford Farm.

Bryan found the set-up process really easy and he did this over the Carephone with Alcove support. He now uses the device to check in with Potsford and Alcove also set-up a tile to Artbox for him, so he has continuity of this service too. Anthony, one of Bryan’s care workers, has taken the device outside so that Bryan can see all the farm animals on his Carephone, which he loved.

Bryan says:

“I think it’s very good to help me communicate and see people I can’t go to see. It is very easy to use and would be good for anyone who lives on their own and can’t get out.”

Kevin Francis, director at Potsford Care services has said that the Carephone has really limited Bryan’s exposure to infection by reducing the number of visits in a day.

Kevin explains further:

“Having the Carephone means we have peace of mind that our clients are okay. You can really have a fuller conversation with people than you would over the phone, you can see their facial expressions and give them the reassurance they need.

“The other benefit is that it allows us to work more flexibly and change the way we support people. We can shift our slots so that we have a longer time to spend with the client when we do visit, and schedule in shorter video sessions across the day. It also protects our staff from exposure to infection.”

“We also thought Bryan could really use the Video Carephone to stay in touch with his day services and to also limit the number of face-to-face visitors he has at this time. He now has one physical visit during the day and then video drop-ins, as and when appropriate.”

Kevin believes that the Video Carephone will also provide huge benefits to families and those who live with vulnerable people – so that they can continue to provide whole family support.

Kevin continues:

“It is so simple from the provider perspective. Following the virtual training session, we were sent the link and now we can log in and make video calls. It is an extra support tool for us to have. In the longer term it would be fantastic for us to be able to spend more time on leisure activities – which is so vital to prevent social isolation and support wellbeing – and use the technology for welfare checks”

Jeni is 83 and lives with her dog in Bury St Edmunds. Her husband passed away eight years ago, but she is very close to her two daughters Heather and Fiona, and her two teenage grandchildren.

Jeni worked as a teacher in Bury St Edmunds before retiring at 60, but was born and raised in Derbyshire where her brother and extended family still live – including her niece’s family.

She’s been isolating during COVID-19 and has found it horrible being unable to visit her family, and not get out and about. However, since having her Carephone, Jeni has found it amazing to be able to see and talk to people.

“The other day it was such a thrill as my niece showed me her granddaughter - who is just over a year old - she walked straight across the room and I saw her on the screen. It was really lovely to see her. It was the first time she had walked and they gave me a call straight away so I could see her do it. I have only ever seen her in person once before so it was such a pleasure.”

Jeni finds the Video Carephone so easy to use. Her daughter Heather helped set it up, but she says it is simple to make a call as she just has to press the green button.

Jeni has never used technology like this before. Heather previously bought her a mobile phone, but she found it complicated and difficult to use. She also has a pendant alarm– but this is the first time she has used any connected device.

She reminisces:

“I remember the days when nobody had a phone at home. At Brownies we used to take turns to learn how to use the phone in a phonebox and call the Captain – it was seen as learning a life skill! I never thought there would be something where you can speak to people and look at them at the same time. I do appreciate it!”

Jeni hopes that her brother will also be able to call her through her Carephone and will definitely be recommending it to her friends at the Women’s Institute.

Her daughter Heather says:

“Having the Video Carephone has taken a lot of pressure off me. Especially that she speaks her family in Derbyshire. She really enjoys using it and it has made me feel like she’s not so alone.”

'Virtual bingo - who would've thought it?'

Maggie is one of three directors at the Young at Heart Day centre in Beccles. They provide services to people, most of whom have dementia, at their centre which has been operating for seven years. 

On average they welcome around ten people a day and open three days a week. Visitors have a meal, teas and coffees and participate in activities including cards, bingo, arts and crafts and singing.

Maggie says although they have an I-pad which they used on their customers’ behalf for searching on the internet, they have never used a tablet as a way of delivering a service before. 

They’ve now been using the Alcove Video Carephone for over six weeks and are seeing some excellent outcomes with five of their service-users actively using a device. Maggie says"before people could return to the centre it was great to have the devices. We called all our users once or twice a week. For some it was the only conversation they had with anyone."

Gloria, who is 73 and has a learning disability, lives alone with support, and absolutely loves her Alcove Video Carephone. Maggie says, "You know when Gloria is around, she is incredibly sociable and always glamorous.”

Before she was able to return to the day centre, Gloria really missed everyone. Maggie called her on her Video Carephone and then passed it around so that all her friends and support workers could chat to her.

Maggie has also given Gloria a Bingo card to take home so she can participate in games without having to attend in person. Maggie says, “It is early days but there are a lot of benefits going forward – mainly keeping in contact with people and helping them join in with the things that we do. It’s brilliant for those who have the cognitive ability to use it. Virtual bingo, who would have thought it?”

Tony Brown and Jeff Flint video carephone

Tony Brown and Jeffery Flint, Manor Court

Tony is almost 90 and is in good health, despite having being diagnosed with Alzheimers. He lives alone and is a bachelor, which means he relies on his wider support network to keep him occupied.

Jeff and Tony have been friends for nearly 40 years. Jeff was married to Tony’s niece and due to their mutual interests and love of nature, have become life-long friends. Tony has a large collection of foreign sea shells which he gifted to Jeff and he once grew a greenhouse full of orchids!

Jeff’s friendship with Tony means he has also taken on the role as informal carer to him and he helps him with shopping, bringing food and supplies and checks in on him when he can. Tony also has carers from Manor Court care providers, who visit three times a day.

When he was younger, Tony lived an active life and spent three years in the army as a driver to some of the UKs top civil servants, secret service agents and military personnel. He recalls driving the General to the Queen’s coronation in 1953 as one of his career highlights. After leaving the military, he worked as handyman, taking on different jobs and relishing change. He retired after working for the MOD in Lakenheath and said he has loved every minute of all his work.

Jeff says:

“Tony is the most amazing man you will ever meet. He had the most active life, teaching himself Latin and learning to paint – with exceptional precision. He has always loved helping people, and when he retired, he spent thousands of hours helping out the local school with their garden and volunteering in the community.

“All he likes to do now is talk to people and tell them his stories – and there are so many. The Video Carephone is great as it give him the opportunity to do this.

“Tony did not use technology before, and wasn’t a fan - including television and telephones. He was very reluctant to receive a Video Carephone. But he absolutely loves his device now.”

During lockdown Jeff used to take his dogs out for a walk and called Tony on his Carephone to see the outside world and also to show him some of the places he used to visit.

Tony says:

“The device really helped me during lockdown as the days were so very long – especially for someone like me. I have always been active and it was difficult for me. So being able to see and talk to Jeff was a life saver, and to bring a bit of the outside world in.

“I have to say, Jeff is my anchor and I now can speak to him and see him every day.”