Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have been supporting inspiring local initiatives who are getting food to our most vulnerable, supporting our most isolated elderly residents, and adapting other vital services to ensure people with the highest needs continue receiving the help they require. 

Oakleaf Enterprise has been helping people in Surrey to manage their mental ill-health since 1995. The charity supports adults of working age, at any point in their mental health crisis or recovery, to develop the skills, confidence and training needed to return to the workplace.

Oakleaf HQ is also one of Surrey’s Safe Havens. A Safe Haven is an alternative to A&E, providing out of hours help to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. During the coronavirus lockdown, Oakleaf’s HQ Safe Haven has remained open for the community.

Oakleaf - Volunteer

When lockdown happened in March, Oakleaf had to completely and quickly reassess how to continue supporting hundreds of their regular clients. At Oakleaf opportunities for real social connection are key, many of their services depend on activities that promote in-person social connection amongst clients – something that social distancing would suddenly prohibit.

The answer meant that, for the first time ever, Oakleaf had to shift to completely remote services.

Jen Clay, the charity’s Fundraising and Partnerships Manager says: “We have a large number of individuals who don’t live with friends or family and live alone, and therefore are quite isolated. The only time they left their house was to come to Oakleaf and now that’s been taken away. So that’s where us providing remote support has become just so essential.”

The emergency £5,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Surrey from their Coronavirus Response Fund, meant that the charity could quickly move its support services online and offer remote counselling to its now even more isolated clients. Using technology such as Zoom, meant they could continue their important check-ins and even the regular group activities that so many in Surrey have come to rely on.

Jen says the silver-lining of this fast turnaround of remote services is they’re seeing a new mix of people in their groups. Where some clients found travel to Oakleaf a barrier and others had scheduling conflicts, now more people have more access to different activities.

“We have this fantastic mixing around of people trying new things and being involved in different activities each week. And it’s been giving people new opportunities to meet others who they never would have crossed paths with before!” says Jen.

The success of this remote shift has meant that when lockdown ends, Oakleaf has a new way to reach more vulnerable people. When it is again safe, Oakleaf plans to still advocate for the type of connection only in-person interactions can provide but knowing that they have a new tool in their belt to support Surrey residents has been an unexpected win during a difficult time.

To find out more about Oakleaf Enterprise and their services, visit their website here.