Call me up

Noreen Robinson choked Paul O’Grady (aka Lily Savage) at the
Community Care awards. Not literally, of course. It was
the moving speech she gave when the service she uses won the older
people/intermediate care category that brought a lump to the
presenter’s throat.

Robinson is a client of Good Morning Galliagh, an innovative but
simple project based in Derry, Northern Ireland. It is a telephone
alert and information service for older and vulnerable people who
live in isolated social housing in the Galliagh area, where there
are problems with crime, antisocial behaviour and poverty.

Good Morning Galliagh’s 20 volunteers ring 50 clients, the youngest
of whom is 39, at an allotted time between 9.30am and 1pm from
Monday to Friday. A computer program contains relevant information
about the project’s clients, who are referred to it by social
services or Age Concern, or who self-refer. The volunteers access
these details when they make their calls and record information on
computers from conversations with clients.

Apart from being a friendly voice at the end of the line, the
volunteers check that users are all right, remind them of any
medical appointments and give them information on subjects like
housing repair or welfare rights. If necessary, volunteers can also
contact other agencies to deal with a client’s particular

Good Morning Galliagh is based on Good Morning Milton, a similar
service operated in Glasgow by the North Glasgow Community Safety
Forum. The Derry scheme was created by the Galliagh Community
Development Group in conjunction with the Northern Ireland
Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders following a
survey of local residents in 2000. The scheme began work last April
and was launched by Bairbre de Brun, Northern Ireland minister for
health, at the end of May.

Annette Doherty, Good Morning Galliagh’s project co-ordinator and
community worker, admits the survey’s results surprised her. “I’ve
lived here for 23 years and didn’t realise that there were so many
people living in fear and feeling isolated.”

Four miles from the centre of Derry, Galliagh has 2,153 households,
86 per cent of which receive housing benefit. Forty-three per cent
of residents are aged under 17 and 40 per cent of its 18 to 25 year
olds are unemployed. Its population of 10,500 is predominantly
nationalist, many of whom are reluctant to call the Police Service
of Northern Ireland when they are victims of crime and antisocial

Doherty says: “People felt they had no one to turn to about the
antisocial behaviour so they contacted the local priest, but the
young people wouldn’t listen to him.” This is where Good Morning
Galliagh bridges the two groups. It mediates between the
predominantly young people who cause the problems, and their
victims who tend to be older people.

Robinson was on the receiving end of antisocial behaviour when her
front door lock was superglued and eggs were thrown at the bungalow
where she lives alone. Her social worker referred her to Good
Morning Galliagh who arranged for her to have new front and back
door locks and bolts fitted. “I feel more secure now, it’s like
living in Fort Knox.”

She says the service is very important for people who live alone
and who may not speak to anyone else regularly: “When you wake up
in the morning you know that someone out there really cares.
Getting that little call in the morning really makes the day for

Winning the £5,000 prize will significantly boost the work
Good Morning Galliagh does, says Doherty. The project is using
money to buy two more computers that can be hooked up to its
existing system and an additional phone line. Good Morning Galliagh
will also recruit two new volunteers to operate the computers and
make regular telephone calls to its clients. Under the Worktrak
programme, organised by Maydown Ebrington Training Services, the
volunteers will be able to work for six months and continue to
receive the tax breaks they are entitled to.

Doherty says this is vital if the service is to develop and attract
even more volunteers: “By having two new volunteers we can increase
the number of people we can call and hopefully expand into
different communities around Derry.”

Robinson is also delighted that the project won: “I would like them
to expand because there are a lot of vulnerable people out there
like myself.” 

– The older people/intermediate care category was sponsored by Bupa
Care Homes.

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