Many organisations had no option other than to move services online to cope with the constraints of lockdowns and isolating during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, and Ryedale Carer Support was among them.

But as society has returned to something closer to normal, Ryedale Carer Support has made an active decision to keep some of these additional activities online, simply because they proved so successful and now offer an alternative way for their clients to avoid the problem of isolation and loneliness.

The pandemic meant many people went online for the first time to keep in touch with friends and relatives and that opened a door for organisations like Ryedale Carer Support to take advantage of the new level of access.

Although face-to-face sessions are resuming, Claire Hall, Ryedale Carer Support’s Chief Officer, said a decision had been made specifically to keep some sessions online to give the broadest level of access possible.

“We are going to keep some online activities because a lot more people are now connected,” said Claire.

They are an online singalong, where those attending can listen to a singer then get involved themselves, with the opportunity for chatting between those attending and ‘virtual’ walks, where North York Moors rangers offer details on everything from natural history to wildlife, offering those watching the chance to get involved in discussions.

“They are very interactive,” said Claire. “Our vision is that if you are part of something, you don’t feel so lonely, even if it is online.”

The value of face-to-face sessions should not be under-estimated, however, and a one-stop-shop session is held at Pickering Methodist Church on the first Monday of the month, to provide easy access for those wanting contact with the voluntary sector and other services.

Ryedale Carer Support group quilt

Ryedale Carer Support’s history dates into the last century, but it became a charity in 2000 with a remit to provide volunteers to sit with those needing care, to allow regular unpaid carers such as family members to have a break, with services expanding beyond that in the years that followed.

A quilt has been created by members to celebrate the support Ryedale Carer Support provides. This is currently touring around libraries in the district and beyond.

Ryedale Carer Support has a contract with us as well as raising income independently through grants and their own fundraising activities.

When the pandemic came, it had 130 volunteers, but that more than doubled as furloughed workers offered help.

The fact that most had jobs that needed formal security checks meant they could be used immediately to meet the new demands.

With face-to-face visits stopped, the volunteers were needed to help with shopping runs and prescription deliveries.

Community support organisations were established across North Yorkshire to ensure no residents were overlooked during the pandemic and Ryedale Carer Support worked with Carers Plus Yorkshire to fulfil that obligation.

While that arrangement went on for almost two years, the final community support organisations responsibilities were handed to Carers Plus Yorkshire in January, leaving the Ryedale Carer Support to return to its core functions.

While some of the recognisable face-to-face sessions are now being resumed, the lasting presence of online support will remain a legacy of the pandemic – a rarity in that it represents a positive outcome from an episode in history that has brought so much suffering, hardship and grief.