Has pandemic softened the nation’s ‘stiff upper lip?’ A quarter of people in Wales now find it easier to ask for help, finds British Red Cross




New research from the British Red Cross suggests that the pandemic has changed our attitude towards asking for help, as almost a quarter (24%) of people in Wales say they find it easier to reach out when they are struggling.

The pandemic has also made us more compassionate, with people more concerned about those in need, and many saying they will be kinder to others long into the future. In Wales, the survey found that:

• Half (50%) of those polled said they will be more considerate of lonely people and those in need.

• Two in five (40%) said that living through the pandemic will make them kinder for years to come.  

• However, as the pandemic continues into the challenging winter months, half (52%) of those who anticipate needing support said they wouldn’t know where to turn.

• With almost one in four (24%) feeling ‘powerless’ in the face of ongoing lockdowns, reaching out to others for help will make a huge difference in the months ahead.

For 150 years, the British Red Cross has been supporting people through the darkest times and the coronavirus is no exception. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the British Red Cross has been part of the response, reaching over 1.5 million people with food and medicine packages, transport to and from hospital, emotional support, and a range of other practical help and advice.

The charity’s staff and volunteers have provided over 110,000 hours of support to the NHS and communities across the UK, from distributing Covid testing kits to delivering temperate tests and providing food for hospital staff.

Gareth Jones, 58, from Llantrisant got help from the Red Cross after suffering a severe stroke in December 2018. Before the stroke, Gareth lead a busy life, as an area sales manager and head doorman at a popular pub in Cardiff. One night, while on shift at the pub, Gareth collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He woke up to find his life had changed beyond recognition. Gareth explains, “I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t swallow. I was told I would never walk again.”

After eight months recovering in hospital, Gareth was discharged. He lives alone and so was referred to the Red Cross for support, which is when he met Nina from the charity’s Independent Living team. Nina and Gareth worked together to help him achieve small, practical steps on his road back to independence – like leaving the house in his wheelchair. But then lockdown came in March and for Gareth this meant being isolated at home.

As restrictions eased and Nina could start visiting again, he set his sights on a bigger dream.

“I had one goal when I was in hospital,” said Gareth. “It was the only thing that kept me going for seven months lying in the hospital bed. I wanted to walk on a beach with bare feet, to feel the sand beneath my toes again.”

One morning in the summer when Gareth was having an especially tough day, Nina took him down to Barry Island. The beach has a special significance because Gareth used to go cycling there with his son before the stroke.

Gareth said, “When we got to Barry Island, Nina pushed me in my wheelchair onto the sand. I removed my shoes and socks, stood on the sand and started to walk without a stick. Nina had to call me back because I kept going. I turned around, looked at her and literally burst into tears. I just could not control my emotions and I could not have got to that stage without the assistance of the Red Cross.”

Nina said, “It was such a moving moment. People around us at the beach were crying too. Going to Barry Island was probably the most beneficial thing we achieved because it gave Gareth the inspiration to push himself further. Now, two years after his stroke, he is walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day.”

Nina continues to support Gareth and he looks forward to walks on the beach for many more Christmases to come.

Zoë Abrams, Executive Director at the British Red Cross, said:

“No one could have anticipated COVID-19, or the disruption to our lives that has come with it. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes asking for help is the bravest thing you can do. Throughout the pandemic, the British Red Cross has been there for people in their most difficult moments. People have turned to us who have never asked for help before – but who suddenly find themselves needing food or medicine, or a lift home from hospital. This winter you can get supplies to someone who is isolating, give relief to someone who is lonely and get someone home from hospital. But you don’t always have to be there yourself to make a difference. By donating to the British Red Cross, you can put the power of kindness into action and make sure we’re there to support the most vulnerable people this winter.”

As part of the research, British Red Cross asked people about times when their community has pulled together through 2020. Some highlights include:

• In Scotland, a local arts group have organised a collection of donated Christmas trees and decorations to give to families who can’t afford their own this year.
• Another Scottish resident has painted a ‘mental health bench’ outside their local community centre. You can sit at the bench, if you’re feeling down, and friendly by passers will join you for a chat to help lift your spirits – letting you know that you’re not alone.
• When a young couple from the South East of England had their first baby during lockdown neighbours took it in turns to bring them a home cooked meal every evening for a week, helping them adjust to life as new parents.
• In Wales, one community have set up a ‘village hub’ where people can go to offer help or receive it if they’re struggling. They say it’s really brought people together who wouldn’t usually cross paths.
• And in true British fashion, a respondent from Yorkshire and Humber described finding their neighbour had left a Sunday lunch or their doorstep while they were shielding.

Through the power of kindness you can get help to those hit hardest by the pandemic this winter. To make a donation to the British Red Cross visit redcross.org.uk/get-involved/donate