Relaunching tea party groups
If you have received an email or text from us, please complete our online form to update your details, thank you.
As lockdown restrictions gradually ease, it’s really exciting to be able to share our plans for restarting tea parties. Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about getting together again.
It’s been a very challenging 12 months. When lockdown came, we all moved very quickly to adapt to difficult circumstances. From phone calls and doorstep cake deliveries, there’s nothing quite like the community spirit of Re-engage volunteers.
There was also a lot of work going on behind the scenes to keep the charity afloat. Call companions (the telephone befriending service launched in lockdown) not only helped a huge number of lonely older people but also allowed Re-engage to keep some of its funding and keep going at a time when many charities were struggling.
Our small team of Re-engage staff continues to be really stretched. There are 35 of us in total – 24 directly working with older people and supporting volunteers like you and the rest doing essential work to keep the charity working smoothly.
To put that into context, a charity like Age UK has around 1,200 staff.
Re-engage is extremely fortunate to have the wider team of 14,000 tea party volunteers. Together we’re able to support 8,500 older people every year in our groups.
Where it’s been possible, everyone has stepped up over the last year to keep doing what we do best – bringing company and comfort to some of the oldest and most vulnerable in the UK.
We miss them too. Unfortunately, we can't set a specific date as it will vary from group to group. As groups are situated all over the UK, and due to the makeup of each group being truly unique, all group members will have to discuss and agree on what they feel comfortable with moving forward, in line with the latest local government guidelines.
At all times we advise all volunteers follow government advice and seek the latest information on the easing or tightening of restrictions in their area.
There is some essential housekeeping to get done before tea parties restart. This is being put in place to increase support to everyone running and attending tea parties.
For example, there are currently gaps in our systems that leave people feeling unsupported, put them at risk, or create avoidable risks for older guests. This, along with the realities of how Covid-19 has impacted the organisation, means it’s time for some crucial changes.
More information on the plan to restart tea parties will be available soon.
There is no rush to start, if you don’t feel ready that’s OK. Everything needs to proceed at a pace right for you and your group.
As we continue to ease out of lockdown and more and more restrictions are lifted this may help you feel more at ease, but our way of life has been very different over the last year, and for many it will take some adjustment to start socialising again.
Keep checking our website and your email inbox – there is more information coming over the next few weeks which should help you to feel more secure and comfortable in your role.
Thank you so much for your interest, we would love to get you on board. For the time being we are asking everyone to continue to sign up to our newsletter.
Once we have helped existing groups get up and running, we will let everyone know (via the newsletter) when the application process is open and get you a step closer to joining in the tea party fun!
Firstly, thank you so much for your ongoing support, and yes we would greatly appreciate your continued help. Once we have checked in with all our groups in the coming months, we will be in a better position to know what groups are still running in your new area and if they need new volunteers to join them.
There will be an email going out in May 2021 to all tea party volunteers to check if you would still like to volunteer in your current role and to ensure we have your correct address and contact information. Please respond to this email directly. If you have not received this email, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to advise of your new address and contact information as well as the volunteer role you would like to continue in or apply for. Please bear with us during this process as it may take some time to get back to you.
If you would like to get involved more immediately, you can also sign up to be involved in our telephone befriending service, call companions, more information can be found here.
Re-engage has a small team of staff and an amazing number of volunteers (c.14,000!), so we will need a phased approach to assist you in getting tea parties back up and running.
If you or anyone in your group is willing to take on the group coordinator role, this could be a good way to get tea parties restarted quickly. This could be a temporary or permanent role, depending on how you feel.
For many of our guests tea parties were a lifeline, so to have these taken away will have been very difficult. This coupled with such uncertain times will have understandably taken its toll.
Below we have listed some helpful resource from other organisations. There is some great advice out there so please pass on to your group members. For groups where both older guests and group volunteers feel comfortable, tea parties will be able to restart soon, but we realise they may no longer be a suitable service for some guests.
Our telephone befriending service, call companions, was launched last year, and may be a more suitable service for those that no longer feel comfortable or mobile enough to make it to it to tea parties.
Applications to call companions can be made online, over the phone or one behalf of a guest through our referrals pages.
In Wales, we have started new activity groups where guests can take part in gentle activities such as dancing, chair yoga, gardening and tai chi. Currently, this is taking place online. For more information on these groups please click here.
- Resources to call companions
- Coming out of lockdown: tips for managing anxiety | British Heart Foundation
- Older adults and mental health| Independent Age
- The mental health of older people coming out of lockdown | Age UK
- Readjusting to life after lockdown | Helping Hands Home Care
- Seated and Standing Chair Exercises for Seniors (healthline.com)
This is a group decision, where the vaccination status of your group members needs to be taken into account. There are no hard and fast rules on this, but we should all be following government guidance.
In the upcoming weeks, we will share some points of consideration that will help you make some informed decisions - such as taking your tea parties outside (where risk of infection is far less), wearing masks in cars and government advice on COVID hygiene etc.
Once all restrictions are lifted in your area, you may still feel uneasy with getting together en masse, and that’s totally understandable. More guidance on this will come in time, but there are some discussion points that your group can start to think about:
- Could changes to the layout of the venues you use be made to grant greater space to individuals
- As the weather improves, would hosting tea parties outdoors be an option, where greater social distancing might be possible
- Would hosting to a smaller number of group members at each party work better for a period, rotating monthly invites
One of the realities of how Covid has impacted Re-engage is that we no longer have regional staff to look after specific tea party groups. To be honest, while this system worked well for some, it didn’t work at all for others. That doesn’t mean all those staff members have left, but it does mean their job has changed.
We now have a Knowledge Hub, made up of:
Resources on the Re-engage website to answer the questions we get asked most often.
A phone and email service, manned five days a week by a small but dedicated support team.
Our team of Re-engage staff continues to be really stretched – including the Knowledge Team. We’re really lucky to have our wider team of 14,000 amazing Re-engage volunteers. The only downside of that is the email inbox is bursting! Don’t worry though, more information will come via our series of email updates and more information will be added to the website.
Potentially, yes. Some of us will have DBS (in England & Wales) or PVG (in Scotland) documents that need updating. These are the mandatory checks carried out for some of our volunteers due to the nature of our work in supporting socially isolated - and potentially vulnerable - older people. Please don’t worry about doing anything just yet, we’ll be in touch if that’s you.
On 5 May 2021 an email was sent asking you (group co-ordinators, drivers and hosts) to confirm your contact details and whether you can continue with your volunteer role. This is a critical step to getting our much-missed tea parties back up and running. Please check your junk inbox if you have not received anything or submit your latest information online, thank you.
We would be very grateful if all volunteers, especially group co-ordinators, could help us by asking those in your group to check for our email in case they have missed it. We know many of you are in touch with your group, so your help to spread the word would be much appreciated.
In time, there will be a series of guides to read through and watch (available on-demand) on a range of topics, including safeguarding and data protection. Some of these will need to be completed before tea parties restart, and some will be available as and when you need them.
It’s serious and important stuff, but we’ll make it as easy as possible to digest and let you know how long each guide should take to read. More information on this to come.
Unfortunately we are no longer able to accept paper application forms so please do recycle any that you may have. We are a small team and are unable to process forms manually. We have an easy-to-use online application form which once we’re closer to relaunch we will post on our website. For those of you without online facilities please call 020 7240 0630 and we can complete the online form with you over the phone.