Last week (06/04), before Vaisakhi and the Easter bank holidays, Touchstone’s very small (but very vital) Sikh Elders Service did some brilliant work supporting the frail and elderly Sikh and BAME people across Leeds.

25 calls were made, including video calls, to offer 1:1 support and comfort to service users. The team supported people with health and wellbeing, understanding of government advice, accessing food (including shopping and distributing food parcels), reducing isolation, explaining and installing technology to keep in touch. They ensured that service users understood the importance and rationale for shielding during this pandemic.

Unfortunately, one of the Sikh Elders service users had been to hospital twice in the week, as they had fallen many times. The team have supported this person and been in contact with healthcare professionals. The individual is at higher risk of coronavirus, as they have asthma. The team will be keeping in very close contact with the service user over the coming weeks and months.

There are over 3,000 Britons that have been stranded out in India since the lockdown began towards the end of March. The weather out in India is generally warm during the British winter months and many of the service users tend to go for a few weeks during this time. Sikh Elders Service has over half a dozen service users that are stuck in India.

The team have written to the British High Commissioners in London requesting urgent travel back to the UK for vulnerable service users. One service user is in a particularly difficult situation here whilst the family are stuck out in India. Sikh Elders Service has provided a formal letter of support to the local MP to try and quicken this traumatic situation, both for the service user and their families. Priority emergency allocation on the first flight to UK has been requested and Sikh Elders Service has been informed first flights will depart India week commencing 13th April.

The team has also taken part in a London School of Economics consultation, which is being carried out on behalf of the UK government. Team members were identified as key contacts in the Sikh community. The research was to understand how Sikh people who have a loved one in hospital with corona virus can best be supported in the current COVID-19 situation. Sikh Elders Service were also asked to give opinions on how to deal with the release of bodies from hospitals and how funerals can be conducted to support grieving families.

Touchstone’s support worker, Sarbjit, has worked in partnership with Taraki, another mental health charity active in different parts of the UK. She supported their live Instagram feed about corona virus. Sarbjit was also interviewed virtually via Instagram; by Kaur’s Camp where more Sikh people were given information about the support Touchstone’s offers and wider resources available. Thanks so much to Sarbjit for her commitment and dedication.