Gospel Oak community scheme crucial to help self-isolating man without phone, working TV or computer

Volunteers in Lissenden Gardens, Gospel Oak. Picture: Frank Chalmers

Volunteers in Lissenden Gardens, Gospel Oak. Picture: Frank Chalmers - Credit: Archant

A community initiative in Gospel Oak proved to be crucial in helping a self-isolating, ‘digitally-excluded’ man without a mobile, working TV or computer.

Malcolm James, a 73-year-old who lives in Kent, became worried about his cousin Michael James on the historic Lissenden Gardens estate because he had been sent home from work with symptoms of Covid-19.

Without any modern forms of instant communication, there was no way the 74-year-old’s friends or family could help him with necessities, such as food shopping.

However, the estate has set up a support network of reps who are responsible for checking on potentially vulnerable people on each stairway.

The group were able to slip a note under Michael’s door, open up a line of communication and reassure Malcolm within a matter of hours.

Malcolm, who lived in London before he moved to Kent in the 1960s, said: “I felt relief. At first I was wondering what would happen, if they would be too busy as people promise lots of things, but about three hours later I had a phone call.

“I am just delighted that he is okay and if something isn’t quite right he can leave a note outside his door for help.”

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Since this happened, Michael has bought a cheap mobile. Praising the Lissenden Gardens group, he said: “I never liked computers, the only thing I’m interested in is books - I love reading. I am like a dodo with computers, I’m an old dinosaur.”

Deputy director of Healthwatch Camden, Anna Wright, initially put Malcolm in touch with the group.

She said: “If you are connected to services online and actively engaged in reaching out to find help, there is less reason to struggle in terms of getting what you need [during the lockdown].

“But this was a wonderful example of how a community network can reach out to someone who doesn’t have a telephone, let alone a computer.”

Frank Chalmers, 65, who is one of the organisers of the Lissenden Gardens estate stairway scheme, said: “What we are doing is trying to make everyone on the estate feel safe and secure.

“It’s really good to know that someone is looking out for you and you won’t be stuck on your own.

“What could have been a panic [inducing situation], we could reassure the family.”