Extraordinary times call for extraordinary people, and here at Team Derby we’re overflowing with them!

From our key worker colleagues going over and above to help the most vulnerable in our city, to those taking on new roles to keep essential services running – and everything in between. There are so many shining examples of truly excellent work.

That’s why we’ve launched our new #HereForDerby campaign, and over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of our individual and team successes.

In the first of our case studies, we speak to Local Area Co-ordinator (LAC) Marissa Jefford about her change in role and the work of the ward co-ordinators helping those in need in the community.

Marissa says: “Before coronavirus I was based in the Arboretum ward, working with individuals in the local community to help them find ways to achieving a ‘better’ life for themselves. Part of my role is to help people identify community-based solutions, with a view to preventing, reducing or delaying the need to access a more formal service, and finding creative ways to improve health and wellbeing.

“Building and promoting positive relationships is a key principle of Local Area Coordination. Not only with the person and the family you are helping, but also establishing good relationships within the community, as well as with partners and other services.”

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Marissa was asked to take on a new role supporting the Community Hub in Chellaston as one of 17 ward co-ordinators, working with a team of colleagues and volunteers to support those in need.

“It’s neighbours helping neighbours and that’s what we strive for.

“I’m really proud to say that in Chellaston we’ve had over 100 volunteers come forward to offer help in a range of ways. One of my worries when I first started this was that we wouldn’t have enough volunteers and as Chellaston was an unfamiliar area, I felt slightly blindfolded. Fortunately the volunteers have a wealth of knowledge about their community, they have been my biggest resource and have been absolutely fantastic.”

The Community Hub phone line has been managed by the Derby Direct team and they distribute all the requests coming through for volunteers, and those who need support, to Marissa and her counterparts across the city.

“We’ve had around 85 requests [for help] so far in Chellaston. My task is to contact each of those people to find out a bit more. I apply the same principles as I would in Local Area Coordination, in that, I give people time to talk through things and listen to them and also consider what natural resources they have around them which might be useful. Sometimes it’s just about talking it through and helping them to come up with their own solutions to things but other times it’s getting a volunteer involved to assist.

“We’ve had a range of requests from shopping, walking dogs, topping up gas or electricity, and collecting medication amongst other things. I have spoken to people who we probably wouldn’t ordinarily come across, people who are lonely or feeling isolated, in some cases long before COVID-19.

“It’s hard to hear about people who have no friends and family, or who are distressed or upset.  At least though, we’ve been able to identify these people so that’s something positive.

“I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to speak to so many amazing people, having so many volunteers just in Chellaston and city-wide, the response has been truly overwhelming. Volunteers are saying they want to stay in touch with people –  as LACs we work hard to try and encourage those natural relationships amongst people in the community, it has the potential to be more sustainable. Relationships are everything. I’m just one link in the chain, connecting people and then the future is up to them.

“It’s also been really good to make those connections with other colleagues and teams and we are all pulling together. In my area I’ve been supported by Stephen Broderick, Housing Standards team, Mark Watson from Derby Homes and Steph Holt, Neighbourhood Officer.

“Although we’re in a difficult and challenging time I genuinely believe that some good will come out of this.

“One example is David and Laura. David was the first person to come through to me on the Chellaston Ward Coordinators list, he is an elderly gentleman who lives on his own, his wife passed away some years ago. He is self-isolating as he is considered as being ‘high risk’.”

David required some help around shopping, and after contacting him, Marissa matched him up to Laura who shared the following;

“I am so happy to have met David, he is an absolute gentleman, I ring him every week, and sometimes he will ring me, just for a chat. I visit him every week and drop his shopping at the door, and I buy some nice bread and I make him some cheese and ham sandwiches as a treat, and he is always so grateful. The other day, he had added on some sweets to his shopping list, he said “those are for you Laura, to say thank you”.

“I feel like I have adopted David, and I will definitely be keeping in touch with him after all of this settles down. David told me that by me contacting him, it has given him a reason to live, he looks forward to my calls and it helps him a lot, and I have changed his outlook on life. I have asked him to make a list of all the things he wants to do after COVID-19, and I am going to help him do it.”