Responding to COVID-19: voices from our membership

BASIC – Brain And Spinal Injury Centre – provides community rehabilitation and support services from their Centre in Salford, Greater Manchester. Each year the team support around 500 people with acquired brain and spinal injury or long term neurological conditions, stepping in once NHS input has ceased but their recovery journey is ongoing. Chief Executive Wendy Edge blogs about how social distancing and remote service delivery might impact on the charity in the future.

On 17th March we took the difficult step of closing our Centre in order to protect our clients from COVID-19. This meant closing our specialist gym, virtual reality rehabilitation facility and café. Therapeutic activities have stopped and one to one psychology and psychotherapy sessions have been interrupted. This was very difficult because all of our services are run from our Centre and we know from the feedback we receive that for many clients BASIC is a lifeline.

We have 12 staff who provide physical, cognitive and vocational rehabilitation, mental health services, therapeutic activities and peer support. I am proud of how they have risen to the challenge of organising some of our services remotely. Like many others, we have had to implement changes fast, embrace new online platforms and just go for it. Our neuro physiotherapists have produced a number of safe exercise videos that clients can do at home; we are currently providing psychology and psychotherapy using Zoom and RemotEMDR; we have a WhapsApp group of clients keeping in touch on a regular basis; we are telephoning and emailing clients; we are posting helpful information and resources on our social media channels; we are working in partnership with a technology company to start developing a virtual reality program that people can use at home; our Café Manager is baking pies for staff at the Intensive Care Unit at our local hospital and using Instagram to post recipes and videos. Pete, our new fundraiser, made a video of the Centre whilst closed…

We are now planning how we are going to run Centre services once we re-open. We recognise that social distancing will be upon us for quite a while and we will need to manage how many people can come to the Centre at any one time in order to keep clients safe. There are a number of services and activities we will provide remotely. This is a positive step as we can now reach additional clients who find transport challenging. We will also put plans in place to keep people socially distanced within the Centre. COVID-19 may well change the way we deliver some of our services in the future as we adapt.

Like many small charities, BASIC does not have large reserves. Much of our funding has gone into innovative technology and we rely on earned income, grants and donations to keep our services running. As a result we had to furlough some staff in order to avoid redundancies and the remaining staff have taken a pay cut to help ease finances.

At the beginning of the crisis I was troubled at the thought of BASIC having to make redundancies in order to survive. We were relieved that our contract with Salford Clinical Commissioning, which makes up 14% of our income, was renewed for another year. Funders like the Lottery, Children in Need and Lloyds Foundation have been flexible and supportive. We are also very grateful to the Government’s Job Retention Scheme which will mean for now staff are safe. We don’t know what the future will hold for BASIC but what we do know is that people are incredibly generous when it comes to supporting charities and our work has always been appreciated by clients and funders.

We are currently seeking donations to help build up our reserves, to help us get through this challenging time. The most important thing is that our clients stay safe and that BASIC can be there for them, both now and in the future.

To find out more visit the BASIC website.