Helplines Partnership Downloadable Toolkit

Who can help the helplines?

Our sister organisation PatientView, is currently seeking the views of patient groups worldwide on the impact of COVID-19 on how they operate, and how they are adapting to the new environment.

Helplines are often a core activity of groups, and it can be challenging to keep these operational during the pandemic. A UK charity, the Helplines Partnership, now offers a downloadable toolkit helping helpline teams to work from home.

Mapping the challenges

The UK Helplines Partnership is a charity representing more than 350 member organisations which provide information or support via phone, email, text or online. Between April and June the charity surveyed its members, one of whom reported handing three months’ worth of calls in three days.

Looking across the groups surveyed by the Helplines Partnership, demand has been generally up throughout the pandemic months:

  • In April 43% reported higher demand
  • In May 59%
  • In June 35%. 

Meeting that increased demand from home rather than charity offices and call centres has presented some key challenges for the helplines:

“Self-isolation of helpline team members and health welfare concerns meant that some helplines were unable to provide the same level of service due to reduced staff and volunteer numbers. Issues with helpline technology, problems with their phone provider meant that calls couldn’t be diverted to teams working from home all impacted on service provision.” – Helplines Partnership

However, overall, the Helplines Partnership found that its members were quite resilient. More than three quarters said that they still had enough staff and volunteers to cope with the increased demand and new ways of working, and nearly all (95%+) had systems in place for remote working.

Practical, technical and emotional

Their downloadable toolkit `Homeworking on a helpline’ is one of a series offered by the charity. 

The toolkit offers a range of practical, technical and emotional tips and is designed to enable helplines teams now working at home to:

  • Look after the safeguarding and well-being of clients, staff and volunteers
  • Keep helpline workers engaged and supported
  • Manage data protection, technical and legal issues.
Setting the boundaries 

For a number of years I was a volunteer on a 24/7 helpline, fortunately working from a local centre rather than home. There is a huge difference in dealing with callers in extreme distress, or who are abusive, sexually manipulative or threatening when you are in a centre with other volunteers, rather than in your own home. 

The toolkit offers some helpful tips to help set a clear divide between handling calls at home, and what happens when you hang up at the end of a shift:

“Homeworking can be isolating and how your team is working and the service they are delivering can be affected if there isn’t regular briefings and debriefs from a supervisor as a result of compassion or emotional fatigue…When you have finished your shift, it’s important that you take care of yourself. It can be helpful to take a walk, have a shower, change your clothes or open the window. A physical action that separates you from your helpline shift can help to let go of calls you have listened to and move into the next part of your day.” – Helplines Partnership


Download the toolkit on running helplines from home…

Click here

Read the Helpline Partnerships report on COVID-19 on its members…

Click here

If you are a patient group or organisation, share your views on how you are impacted by the pandemic…

Click here

Visit our sister blog, and twitter #PAGC19, which brings together examples of how patient groups are supporting their patients during the pandemic…

Click here

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