PIPS charity (Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm) was established in 2003, following the suicide of 14 young people, all under the age of 18 and living in the North Belfast area. PIPS is a community based organisation that offers a dedicated care team and family support for those who have been bereaved by suicide.
PIPS first came to Standard Utilities in March 2020, looking for a telephone system before moving back into their recently renovated offices on the Antrim Road. But then, and with Covid-19 striking fast and the logistical concerns of how to deploy some 10 to 12 staff to home working, our paths crossed again. PIPS were left wondering just how they could continue to support the most vulnerable in society, at time when the demand for their counselling and support services was the most critical.
We were able to support PIPS by providing them with a virtual telephone app that was linked to their main telephone line and which enabled them to operate in the same way they would have if they were all in the office together. Anyone dialing in would simply ring the usual PIPS phone number, and the support team would then answer incoming calls as they were transferred to mobile phone extensions. We were able to put a rota in place, too, to make sure that the mobile phones the main PIPS number diverted to, only did so when that particular service team member was on the working rota for that day.
Martina Dhúthaigh, Careteam Manager says, “Without this, we wouldn’t be able to take calls, as we cant go into the office, so the difference this makes is that people are still getting their counselling services over the phone. We wouldn’t be able to make outbound calls either, to ring people and check how they are. There would be more suicides and more people going into hospital, too.”
While the government furlough package applies to registered charities and staff on their official payroll, furloughing key workers where the demand is greater than ever seems a futile initiative.
“Furloughing staff would be giving on the one hand, but taking away on the other,” says Martina. “We’ve had to find a way to continue to offer our critical services, and without the app we honestly wouldn’t be operating today. This Easter weekend is a bank holiday, but we’re still saying open. The app has allowed us to take all these emergency calls and, sadly, many are from National Health Service staff who are struggling to come to terms with what they are facing every day.”
When asked what the short term future looks like and how their income has been impacted, Martina says, “There’s no other service that’s open 7 days a week, 9.am to 9.pm but all donations are freezing up, even as I speak: bag packing, cake sales and all the other fundraising events, none of these can be done now because of the coronavirus. So we’re relying on the generosity of the public to help us support those who need it most.”
If you would like to support PIPS charity or make a donation, please visit PIPS JustGiving page.
Or to learn more visit PIPS website.