Local Government

Coordinating Louth’s Covid-19 response: Community Call Helpline

Local authorities have been at the heart of the country’s battle against Covid-19, working to support the most vulnerable members of the community. Chief Executive of Louth County Council, Joan Martin writes about her organisation’s response through the Community Call Helpline.

‘We’re in this together’ has been the refrain of Irish society as people have seen their way of life altered dramatically in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19. This sense of community togetherness has carried so many of us through; and is an essential component of Louth County Council’s Community Call Helpline.

In March 2020, Louth County Council, along with all other local authorities across the country, answered the call of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government; the Department of Rural and Community Development; the Department of Health; and the Department of the Taoiseach, to implement a national framework to ensure that vulnerable members of our community would be appropriately supported as the country moved through the various stages of the Covid-19 response.

Initially called Community Response, the initiative links local and national government with the community and voluntary sectors to coordinate community activity, direct community assistance where it is needed, and marshal the volunteering energy of the county with a focus on the elderly and most vulnerable.

The Community Call Helpline is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm and is operated by Louth County Council. The initiative has seen staff from across the Council’s various departments working together for the benefit of the community.

Louth County Council’s Community Call Helpline call centre was set up on Monday, 30 March, comprising four dedicated phones located in the Community Section Offices, and a basic data recording system. Since then, the process has been fine-tuned and augmented. Using the ESRI ArcGIS Online and Survey 123, Louth County Council developed applications to facilitate the recording of information from helpdesk calls. Data dashboards have also been developed to facilitate the identification of appropriate volunteer resources, and to capture statistics to monitor the flow and trends of calls into the helpdesk.

Our helpline operates with a two-team system. Team One takes the calls, records the callers’ details via an online portal, and provides advice, where appropriate. Working on the information secured by Team One, the members of Team Two then activate the on-the-ground assets, such as the GAA, An Garda Siochána or the Irish Red Cross, for example, to carry out the caller requests. The members of Team Two also link back with the caller to let them know who will be getting in touch with them. Since 30 March, we have received more than 678 calls, providing assistance to people who need practical supports such as shopping, collecting prescriptions, and providing transport to non-Covid-19 related appointments. Our team also put callers in touch with other organisations, such as the HSE, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and ALONE.

Louth County Council has committed considerable resources from across the organisation to make the Community Call helpline a reliable and helpful resource for elderly and vulnerable members of the local community at a time of great uncertainty. Over the years, we have built strong collaborative relationships with statutory organisations, NGOs and groups in the community and voluntary sector, and these relationships have been invaluable to the smooth running and success of the Community Call in Louth. Our mission at Louth County Council is to provide leadership and deliver high-quality, citizen-focused responsive and effective services, and our work in managing the Community Call helpline is reflective of this.

T: 1800 805 817
E: covidsupport@louthcoco.ie

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