Last time I wrote an NBH update, we were in the very early stages of our response to the Covid 19 crisis, but already I had been amazed at how our helpline volunteers had responded.
I can honestly say that over the last couple of months, they have continued to step up and do so much to meet increased demand for helpline support.
As lockdown was announced in March we applied to SERCO (one of the NBH funders) for additional funding to help us meet the need for remote breastfeeding support. They approved our request and we quickly used this to set up a voicemail option on the helpline.
So now if callers are unable to get through when they ring us, they have the option to leave a message, and one of our fabulous team of (paid) voicemail supporters will call them back as soon as possible. This intervention has meant that we are now able to either answer or give the option to leave a voicemail to every caller to the helpline during opening hours.
We have some amazing statistics from April and May. Over those two months alone, our volunteers answered over 3000 calls! They spent over 1015 hours actually in calls (112% increase on this period last year). So not only are we answering more calls, we are also talking for longer – the average call length has increased as well.
In addition to this, our voicemail team have returned nearly 700 voicemails since the 23rd March when this feature was introduced. As well as our voice support, we have also answered 455 web chats and we have responded to 553 social media messages – a 48% increase on the same period last year on social media alone!
All of this during a time when everyone’s lives have been turned upside down – volunteers, like everyone, have faced uncertainties about work and income, kids suddenly at home all day needing help with home schooling, emotional worries about their own health or that of family members and friends.
It’s been a truly challenging time but the amazing effort that our volunteers have put in on the helpline, web chat and social media has shone through and created a real beam of positivity.
We’ve also had more opportunities during lockdown to get together virtually which has been lovely – we’ve had virtual breakfast get togethers, a virtual afternoon tea celebration during Volunteers Week, plus online Zoom chats to allow volunteers to discuss issues that are important to them. It’s been lovely to see so many people attending these virtual events.
The thousands of families our volunteers have supported during this period will remember them forever. I want to say a massive thank you so much to every single volunteer for being there for other families during this time.
Felicity Lambert, NBH Manager
Some quotes from callers:
“Throughout lockdown accessing breastfeeding support has been really challenging, however I am very grateful for the knowledge, passion and empathy shown by the volunteers at the National Breastfeeding Helpline. Thank you very much!”
“This call has been a blessing I think I was meant to talk to you, I was ready to throw in the towel but after speaking to you I feel so reassured, the information you have given me is gold dust thank you so much.”
“I first rang when my baby was 3 days old and things were not going well. You kept me going. A huge thank you to all of you, you are a very special lifeline to new mums like me right now.”
“Surprised to be able to speak online with someone on a Sunday after 8pm but truly grateful.”
“I am so very grateful to be able to access support from you and grateful to you volunteers for giving up their time to help. The volunteer was able to answer all of my questions and was so helpful. Thank you again.”
The National Breastfeeding Helpline is run in partnership between the BfN and the ABM. The initiative is funded by PHE and the Scottish Government. All calls are answered by trained volunteers, working in their own homes, using a virtual call centre. The helpline offers evidence based, non judgmental, friendly information, reassurance and support and is open every day of the year from 9.30am-9.30pm on 0300 100 0212. Support is available in Welsh and Polish on the same number.