Keeping communities safe and in contact

Aisling Project Covid-19 update 22 May 2020

The Aisling Project has worked with some of the most vulnerable members of the irish community in London during the last 25 years since we began our mission.

Aisling started out to help isolated and vulnerable long-term emigrants get in touch with their families in Ireland and return for rehabilitative breaks. The project has had great success over the years helping many hundreds of exiled men and women make that contact and overcome the psychological difficulties that long-term exile can cause.

Now we are facing a new challenge and must adapt to the unexpected dangers presented by Covid-19. Of course, everyone in the world has to deal with the virus and separation from loved ones but our clients are already vulnerable, already isolated.

Aisling has had to find imaginative ways to support or clients during the outbreak and for the last two months we have maintaining contact on a daily basis and delivering essential goods and services to those in need.

Aisling is continuing to support our 200 plus clients who rely on the contact and reassurance our outreach and befriending service provides.

Aisling clients and volunteers are contacted on a daily basis making enquiries about their condition in a constantly changing environment, offering advice on welfare, housing, health and other pressing issues as well as offering befriending and support during these times of uncertainty and isolation.

The project has continued to supply food and other essential supplies to our most vulnerable clients. At the beginning of the lock down our outreach team and volunteers were mostly physically delivering food items to many of our clients in need. The Irish Abroad Unit of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has made a grant available to charities working with Irish people in Britain so that we can provide the extra support needed because of the current pandemic.

As the crisis has continued and more services have become available we have looked more at maximizing the potential of these services through referrals etc.

These include:


  • Booking clients in for deliveries from food banks, shops and other local charities. Morrisons does a very intelligently put together basic box off foodstuffs designed for a full week for a single person at around 30 pounds.
  • For more able clients who can get to the shops but who are basic JSA or Universal Credit claimants and are struggling to pay for essential items we have ordered 20 pound vouchers from Sainsburys, which seems to have the widest network of shops and you are never too far from anyone.
  • We are also putting together toiletries bags including basic personal hygiene products for clients. When money is tight and shopping is logistically so difficult these are often the items that are neglected but which are vital during these times when keeping clean is of such importance.

Most of our clients are coping with the unique circumstances we are in but benefit a lot from regular human contact and reassurance. Assistance is also required often with issues that are not Covid-19 related necessarily but like everything else, is exacerbated by the crisis. Advice on welfare, housing and health issues are therefore to the fore.

Alcohol and dependency issues continue during the pandemic and can often become even more problematic. We have clients who are booked in for detoxes which are all located outside London now and must be accompanied. Others are drinking at home now rather than in pubs and will find that their capacity will increase. Street drinkers have been moved on during this pandemic but lately, particularly since relaxation of the lockdown rules and advice many of our clients are gathering in parks and benches etc. for company and are once more drinking in groups, returning to old habits and behaviour, having a negative effect on good mental and physical wellbeing.

Loneliness and isolation has become a major issue for many already suffering from these problems. Keeping clients in touch with their families is a big part of Aisling’s work and while we are not able to physically bring people home to visit families maintaining familial links is vital to our mission. Regular phone contact helps so much in this regard and we are providing phones to individuals who have may never had such a device but which now has become a necessary and vital communication tool. Some phones have been donated and others are cheap basic easy to use pay-as-you-go models.

As well as telephone contact everyone enjoys getting corrsepondence through the post and recently we sent out an information newsletter containing useful contacts for support, advice and essential services available in all parts of London. We also sent out a personal post card this week to each client let them know we are thinking of them and that we are there for them whenever we are needed.

In other circumstances we are sometimes the only people able to act on behalf of families and in the case of a recently deceased client we have organized the funeral and will be the only people attending his cremation in a couple of weeks time. The crematorium will be live streaming the service so his family in Ireland will be able to view from home.