SINCE launching in Waterford last year, around 600 people have availed of Age Action’s Care & Repair Programme.
Hosted by Waterford Area Partnership (WAP), the service offers small DIY jobs for elderly people who may not be able to carry them out themselves.
The work is delivered by qualified tradespeople who are all Garda vetted and carry Age Action ID.
The project was subsequently launched in Tramore in February of this year and has continued to enjoy popularity.
This week, I met with local Care & Repair Project Coordinators Ian Lennon and Suzanne Connolly to discuss the service and the benefits which it offers users.
“We do every type of little job from cutting the grass to changing a light bulb, to hanging a shelf in the kitchen. The demand is huge and way above anything we ever anticipated,” explained Suzanne.
“Since we started, it has been very humbling. People are living in very difficult circumstances and this service is really needed. It’s a completely free service. The only thing a person might have to pay for is if, for example, a light bulb was needed. They would then pay for the light bulb themselves. The actual work is completely free.”
“The service is run on donations received,” added Ian.
“Some people mightn’t have anything and that’s fine but some people give a donation and we then use that to put diesel in the van, buy paint brushes etc.”
Users can call the special number Care & Repair number (844844) between 9am and 5pm Monday – Friday.
There are three Care & Repair vans on the road in the locality at present, all displaying the Care & Repair logo.
Workers travel in groups of two and never call to a house unless it has been prearranged.
When a call is made seeking the assistance of Care & Repair, the job in question is firstly assessed in order to determine the materials needed, how long the job will take, who it will be allocated to etc.
“Our time limit is two to three hours because we don’t want to displace any local tradespeople. If we go out and see that a job is too big, we have a list of people that we can use that won’t charge a call-out fee and are legitimate and will look after them and won’t rip them off,” said Ian.
“Initially we thought we might have a negative reaction from tradespeople who might think we were taking work away but we’ve actually seen the complete opposite,” added Suzanne.
“The jobs we do are the smaller ones that people won’t pick up the phone and pay someone to come in and do anyway. It has actually generated some paid work for people which is great.”
The tradespeople who participate in the Care & Repair programme have been carefully selected, as Suzanne explained.
“When we’re recruiting for Care & Repair it’s not as simple as looking at someone who has come from a trade background,” she said.
“We look at their personality and social skills and whether they can understand the service and understand how vulnerable people feel about letting someone into their home. It’s important that they have a full awareness of that. We know when we meet someone if they’re right for the service. Some people can connect with it straight away. We’re very lucky that we have a very willing and hardworking team.”
Participating in the programme has also brought benefits for the tradespeople, the age profile of which ranges from 20 to 74!
“There’s a huge social element to it as there’s a lot of isolation and loneliness out there,” said Ian.
“Our team builds up relationships with the clients and will often sit down and enjoy tea and a chat.”
One service user I spoke with this week paid tribute to the Care & Repair Programme.
“I’ve used the service this week for the second time in three months,” he said.
“I’m very grateful for the service and the efficient and effective manner in which it is offered.”
If the Care & Repair team observes that a client may need extra assistance, they can be put in contact with the relevant body.
“If we see someone may need an external service, with their permission, we can point them to a different project,” explained Ian.
“We have linked in with other agencies and groups so that if we can’t help, we can direct somebody to help them. There’s a lot more than just going in and fixing a few bits and pieces.”
At the moment, with the worrying increase in burglaries, the Care & Repair service is promoting a security scheme which includes fitting security locks and chains on windows and doors in order to help make people feel safer in their home environment.
Smoke alarms can be fitted for free while tradespeople are calling for something else.
“They’ll always do a fire check as well so if someone doesn’t have a smoke alarm they’ll install one free of charge,” said Ian.
There are currently over 30 Care & Repair programmes operating nationally, with Waterford’s service being one of the biggest.
Such a worthwhile project will surely continue to grow and attract more grateful users.
For more information call 051-844844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.