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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council Libraries staff have made around 15,000 welfare calls to over-70-year-olds living alone over the past fortnight as part of the council and Auckland Emergency Management’s COVID-19 response, says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

“We made the calls to older people living alone to ensure that people who were the most isolated weren’t facing problems with the lockdown that no one knew about,” Mayor Goff said.

“In fact, most of the people we contacted were doing reasonably well, although loneliness was a factor with some we spoke to.

“Most people were glad to get a call and enjoyed having a chat. Only 388 people we called had specific problems they needed help with. Some we helped out by getting a food package delivered, others we referred to the Ministry of Social Development for help with income support, and some we were able to refer to other agencies such as Healthline or Age Concern.

“One gentleman we couldn’t help had requested our assistance with finding a girlfriend!

“Another lady said she was waiting for our call because we had rung her friend the previous day and she had hoped she wasn’t going to miss out.

“An elderly chaplain said she was grateful for our call but was busy herself writing to 42 older members of her congregation to see how they were, and a lady who had turned 101 the previous week thanked us for the call—which she said helped extend her birthday celebrations.

“It was great to see most of our seniors are coping well. I want to thank the 70 Auckland Libraries staff who volunteered their time to make these calls and were enthusiastic about helping out. With their reputation for friendliness and great interpersonal skills, we couldn’t have asked for a better group to undertake this task,” Phil Goff said.

Between 7 and 21 April, 15,000 calls were made, with 388 people needing either financial support or an essential food parcel from the food distribution centre set up by council’s Auckland Emergency Management.

The greatest number of calls placed in one day was on 16 April when 3000 calls were made.

Auckland Council’s Head of Community Libraries – North & West, Darryl Soljan, says, “This has been a magnificent effort by the library team. And one I know they have found rewarding and humbling. They have really enjoyed listening to the stories and making a connection with people who were isolated.

“Many of the team have expressed their pride in working for an organisation that cares for its community. And they loved being able to be of use, even though our libraries are closed during level 4 and level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Giving our time to the community has been really powerful, not only for achieving real benefit to those we spoke with but also to be thanked so much for something so simple as a phone call.”