Great Croft Health & Positive Living Hub: supporting older Camden residents and the community

Great Croft Health & Positive Living Hub: supporting older Camden residents and the community

Great Croft Health & Positive Living Hub: supporting older Camden residents and the community 1920 1280 WeMakeCamden

Great Croft Health & Positive Living Hub is a day centre based in King’s Cross which offers a range of activities for older adults. Local residents recently nominated Great Croft (part of Age UK Camden) in recognition of their work since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

We spoke with centre manager Abul Choudhury about the support Great Croft have offered the people they work with, as well as the wider community.

What has been Great Croft’s role in the pandemic and what inspired you to get involved?

When the pandemic hit, our first concern was for clients attending our day centre. We looked at how we could support them with essential things like shopping and medicine. Then, working with Camden Council, we became a food distribution hub for everyone in our community.

During Ramadan, volunteers from the Council joined us to help deliver support packages to 150 to 200 families a day across Camden. We also supported residents to access the range of services they needed in this crisis, everything from Universal Credit to funerals. We never knew lockdown would last so long. We reopened our centre to older people in early July 2020 with strict measures in place to protect them, and have done everything we can to keep it open.

What inspired me was seeing the level of need and sadness. People who had been working in restaurants or as minicab drivers, and no longer had any income, and families who had lost their breadwinners to Covid, sometimes multiple generations of the same family too. I like challenges, and community and caring for people is my life.

“I’ve learnt that [Age UK’s] greatest asset is our people in Camden”

Abul Choudhury, Great Croft centre manager

What challenges has Great Croft faced?

We’ve problem-solved as issues have come up. For example, when delivering food we realised that some people weren’t answering their doors, and worked out that it was because their hearing aids had run out of batteries. Once we knew that, we could sort it out.

We’ve had issues like needing to fundraise, but we’ve received huge support from Camden Council, and think we’ve managed well working with the public sector, voluntary and community organisations and our communities. But of course it’s been a difficult and emotional time. I’ve lost people close to me to Covid. I’ve put my energy into helping other people because that’s who I am.

What’s your most memorable moment from your activities supporting Camden communities during the pandemic?

During Ramadan in the first lockdown, I was out delivering food until 8pm, and one day I spent ages trying to find an address in Hampstead Heath, I was exhausted. But the person was so grateful, and they later got in touch to say that they were remembering me when they broke their fast. That was so special, and I knew I’d done something good.

What are your hopes for the future?

There’s still going to be lots of issues unless we tackle them. Poor people in Camden are getting poorer. I hope that we look again at how we can support older people living in the community long term. This includes talking to people about what they need, and making sure these services get funding.

What is the main thing you have learned from the pandemic period?

I’ve learned that our greatest asset is our people in Camden. Voluntary organisations, charities, the Council and other organisations came together and continue to be very important to the community.

This crisis might not be the last one, so Camden needs to not forget what it’s learnt during this one: the people who came and helped.

What one change would make the greatest difference for Camden as we come out of the pandemic?

I think organisations continuing to work together – the voluntary and community sector, the Council, and more – is the key to success in Camden going forward and making sure no one gets left behind.

Is there an organisation or group you would like to see recognised for their support for people in Camden during the pandemic?

I would like to thank the ward councillors, who didn’t hesitate to get on the case when people needed them. I am so grateful to them and people who work at the Council, especially Camden libraries staff and others who worked from the centre helping with food distribution.

How can people get support from Age UK Camden or get involved?

Age UK Camden offers lots of services for older people in the borough, from organising care and support to counselling, keeping fit and healthy, befriending and IT training. Call 020 7239 0400 or visit the Age UK Camden website to find out more.

On the Age UK website you can find out about volunteering opportunities, and you can also donate to our Phone a Friend appeal, to help fund services supporting isolated older people in Camden.

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