UK Power Networks
This week I attended a workshop run by UK Power Networks on the challenges faced by people living in Rural Areas. This as to see whether the support people required differed from those in towns and cities. If so, how could the Services of UK Power networks be improved to deliver appropriate support?
Link to UK Power Networks Priority Services Register (http://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/EQ )
Whilst there is a host of topics that could and probably will be discussed in future blogs I am going to focus on “Isolation”.
Everyone was asked what their interpretation of Isolation was. Is it purely about someone living alone in a remote house!?!
Isolation is always a “hot” topic with many funders and organisations citing Isolation in their criteria, services, and projects. The question remains: can you be isolated living in the middle of Norwich? Or indeed in a busy office or indeed at home with your family?
When talking about Isolation many people envisage an elderly person but what about children, young mums, disabled people, husbands, wives, and staff can they all be isolated too?
Of course, they can. Isolation comes in many forms. The feeling of isolation can be derived from a variety of external and internal factors.
At the event, we discussed how disabled people can feel isolated due to a lack of transport in their area. This can limit their opportunities to get involved in Groups or Organisations, go shopping, visit family and friends. It can also be that the transport isn’t accessible or that there are only two bus services a day or people can’t get to the bus stop.
Provision of good, regular transport has long since been a thorn in the side of those living in Rural Areas, affecting anyone who relies on Public Transport for their Social/Work life.
We also discussed Community Interaction and how this has changed over the years, with the demographics of many areas changing.
It is less likely that your family is close by, you know all of your neighbours, your village has a shop, has a church or pub. Therefore, the opportunity to share a conversation, seek a bit of support or access a Service has diminished. (Some statistics on loneliness can be found here: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/loneliness-research/)
With the introduction of Social Media, it’s great that we can keep in touch with family and friends all around the world. However, it’s not so easy for them to pop round if you are unwell, need a bit of DIY or a Social day out or in.
Many coastal areas also have holiday homes which have been on the increase in recent years. This means there are no consistent neighbours to get to know on a very personal level.
Hate Crime & Bullying
It may be our thoughts, feelings, fears or something that has happened to us.
We may be afraid to go out because we have been a victim of Hate Crime or bullying. We may also feel ashamed or unable to tell someone what has happened and therefore become depressed and isolated from our family and friends.
People can be a victim of domestic abuse or live in controlling relationships which result in a range of reasons why they may not engage with the local Community or interact with Services or Organisations. We must also not forget that not all abuse is from outside of the home.
Lack of Confidence
We may lack confidence in our social skills, or be new to an area. Being new to an area came up in the conversation in relation to an elderly relative whose family had moved them into an annex of their family home.
The home in a completely new area was great but with the family out at work all day the elderly relative found it difficult to make those first steps to get out into the community.
Social Media & Technology
A wonderful communication tool, if you know how to use it, can use it or even want to use it. However, it does mean that people don’t have to go out of their homes, don’t have to make a visit – we don’t even move from our desks now we just email our colleagues.
We message people by text, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. etc. but what about those people who don’t use these communication forms?
Increasingly, more and more information is sent out electronically. This is mainly due to cost factors and companies that wish to go paperless. So how do you find out information if you don’t use a computer?
Accessibility is another issue – if you can’t access something because it is not available in the right format (not just meaning paper or electronic but braille, audio, easy read, subtitles, sign language (covering different languages but also the style in which something is written can mean you are unable to participate, can’t access information and therefore struggle to interact in an independent life.
Carers may feel isolated as they don’t have the time to socialise and get out and about. We must remember that isolation does not discriminate because of age it can be anyone at any time.
Not feeling you fit in at school, being from different ethnic backgrounds, having particular beliefs, disabilities or different financial and social circumstances can make school life a nightmare and of course, this can apply across society for young, old, families, couples, male or female.
Again this can affect anyone at any time and can sometimes come as a shock, whether you haven’t ever had a job or have been made redundant or have had to give up work for any reason then you miss out on a whole raft of benefits.
These include the major financial benefit employment brings but also the social benefits, the feeling of independence and self-worth, the choices and opportunities being employed gives us, the ability to support the family and a whole range of other things that we value in living an Independent life.
Mental Health Illness
Very often it is easier to see the physical barriers people face but it’s not always so easy to see the emotional and psychological health of a person and neither is it as easy for most people to talk about.
The stigma and misconceptions surrounding Mental Health all contributes to people not being able to talk about their feelings and emotions, making it even harder to climb out of that place of isolation.
So is there a definitive answer? Or is it everybody’s individual interpretation and personal circumstances?
For the purposes of yesterday’s meeting living in a rural area may be a contributing factor to isolation. However, it does not mean that everyone living in a rural area is isolated. Or that a person living in the middle of a town or city can’t be isolated.
Therefore when delivering a service having a knowledge of your customer’s full circumstances can assist in developing and delivering a fast, effective and efficient service.
It was fantastic that UK Power networks were taking this opportunity to engage with those working and living in rural and coastal communities.
Often services, policies, and procedures can be developed to suit what Organisations and businesses “think” people want but this often leads to misconceptions, gaps in provision or inappropriate and inaccessible services.
So this blog is not to solve the issue of what is isolation or to provide the answers. However, I hope to make people think about the subject.
think about their own ideas and perceptions, examples in their own lives and from this, think about what they could do.
Equal Lives is working with UK Power Networks to promote their Priority Service as detailed below.
UK Power Networks keeps the lights on across London, the South East and East of England. Regardless of who you pay your bills to, you can call them on 105 if you have a power cut.
The company has a Priority Services Register to provide free additional help, support, and advice during a power cut. This is offered to pensioners, families with young children and people with special needs, disabilities or health conditions.
The register provides you with access to several extra help services including:
- Welcome pack with useful advice about preparing for a power cut
- 24-hour priority phone number to call for updates until power is back on
- Tailored support if needed such as home visits, hot meals, advice and keeping your friends and relatives updated
- Home visit from our staff or through our charity partnership with the British Red Cross
- In certain scenarios, we may also offer a free hotel overnight and transport to the hotel
Kerry Potter, priority services manager at UK Power Networks, said:
“There are many people that could benefit from being on our Priority Services Register including people living with disabilities. While power cuts are rare there’s no harm in being prepared.
“When it comes to power cuts most people know to have a torch and an old-fashioned corded phone handy. Most modern fridges and freezers can stay cold for up to 15 hours. Being on the register is another practical way to be prepared.
“We want to provide the best possible customer service, far beyond what’s normally expected. Our team is dedicated to supporting customers with specific needs.
“While being on the register doesn’t mean we can get the power back on quicker, it does mean we know about a person’s situation. Our dedicated team can provide support tailored to their needs.”
TO REGISTER or find out more follow the link below:
You can also pick up a Registration Form from the Equal Lives Office.
It’s a really good service so why not take a look for yourself and join up today.
Others attending the meeting were:
West Norfolk Befriending – www.wnbefriending.org.uk
Age UK Norfolk – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/norfolk/
Care Line west Norfolk – https://www.careline-cs.org.uk/