COVID 19 continues to have a major impact on us all as individuals, families and communities, Like many other charities and companies, Diabetes Ireland has been affected hugely and since March 2020, the Board of Directors has had to make some very tough decisions which impacted on the charity’s ability to provide services to the diabetes community.
At the time of the first lockdown in March, the directors had to take measures in keeping with requirements which included closing the offices and care centres and severely reducing the working hours of our administration, care centre and health promotion staff. The charity also saw a significant reduction in its income that necessitated applying for the governments wage subsidy scheme for staff.
During this period, despite the COVID lockdown and closure requirement, Diabetes Ireland staff in recognising the need and importance of helping and supporting people with diabetes and their families worked tirelessly to keep our lines of communication open and for this I am very appreciative of their outstanding commitment to our community.
In 2020, our diabetes helpline dealt with over 5,650 calls, an 80% increase from 2019 and a lot of these calls were COVID related and difficult to deal with as they related to individual health concerns with many requiring healthcare professional input.
Access to our online services such as our website saw over 232,000 visitors with over 30,000 of those accessing our COVID & Diabetes Management Section developed by our staff who continue to keep it updated as HSE information changes.
We also focussed on using our social media platforms to keep our community updated on all aspects of diabetes throughout the year and we now have over 23,000 followers across our various platforms, an increase of over 2,000 year on year.
Following a call for support in June 2020, fantastic fundraising support from our members, the wider diabetes community and our corporate partners, we re-opened our Care Centres on a partial basis and maintained reduced staffing levels in our offices along with staff working from home over the summer months.
From September, our Care Centre services in Dublin and Cork are once again open 5 days per week providing podiatry services and access to Diabetic RetinaScreen services each day. Unable to deliver CODE face to face, our health promotion team has now developed its CODE Type 2 diabetes structured education programme to be delivered virtually. The programme which provides information on all aspects of living with Type 2 diabetes consists of 3 x 2-hour sessions delivered over 3 consecutive weeks and a final 2-hour session after 6 months and is available free of charge. After piloting the online programme in 2020, we plan to deliver 30 programmes in 2021.
A new development has been the introduction of education webinars for people with diabetes and their families. We have held 5 webinars to date, all of which have been extremely well attended with very positive feedback from attendees. The aim of the webinars is to provide people with practical information around the challenges of living with diabetes at this time.
At a national and local level, through our board, staff and advocacy group, we continued to advocate for more diabetes resources availing of the opportunity presented by a general election and subsequently re-establishing the Cross Party Parliamentary Committee on Diabetes which with the aim to seek sustained investment in supporting people living with diabetes and promote a more strategic approach to addressing long-term improvements
Today, life continues to be tough for all of us and while the impact of coronavirus has meant that all our face to face education services and events cannot take place for the foreseeable future, we are continuously developing and due to tremendous work undertaken by staff we are able to deliver our diabetes education programmes virtually and provide a safe environment to deliver face to face podiatry and retinascreen services in our Care Centres to the diabetes community.
In 2021, our focus will be to;
- Maintain our helpline so we are available for people with concerns and queries.
- Increase our online presence and develop a number of online awareness campaigns that increase understanding of diabetes and its impact.
- Deliver a range of education webinars to our community ensuring there is content that will be of benefit for everyone whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
- Deliver 30 virtual Type 2 diabetes Code programmes and a carbohydrate counting programme for people with Type 1 diabetes so they can access CGM technology and update Diabetes Smart to make it more easily accessible for users.
- Keep the Care Centres open and increase our podiatry services in both Dublin and Cork and ensure that people with diabetes can be seen for both eyecare and footcare screening.
- Maximise the advocacy opportunity via the Cross-Party Parliamentary Committee, the various HSE groups and work through our board and advocacy group to ensure we tackle the issues that are important to our community.
Looking to 2022-2026, we are working with staff, committee members and active volunteers to develop a 5-year strategy for Diabetes Ireland which will take us forward in the new world. However, this is only possible if we continuously generate the income required to deliver our services and support.
We can only continue the work of Diabetes Ireland with the support of the diabetes community, staff, members, and volunteers but it does require people to become members and/or support our various fundraising initiatives. In June 2020, when we really needed the support of the community, it materialised way beyond our expectations and the directors are extremely grateful for that support but highlighted that we need the continued support of our members and also the help of the wider diabetes community if we are to maintain our services at current levels.
Professor Hilary Hoey, Chairperson, Diabetes Ireland in her summing up of the AGM said, “the simple reality is that if we want to achieve our aims, continue to deliver and expand our services so we can meet the needs and expectations of our community during these times the income we currently generate is not enough to enable us to do so. While I fully acknowledge that generating income is currently extremely difficult, Diabetes Ireland needs the support of its community now more than ever.
How can you Help
We need thousands of additional members if we are to be really effective in supporting our community in every facet.
Becoming a member should not be about what you get for your annual membership fee, but it should be seen as a small contribution to the national charity of the diabetes community so that help can be provided to all members and those members of our community who are in the most urgent need of help and support at a particular time.
We need to ensure our helpline remains open, our website and social media platforms continue to keep you updated, we continue to deliver our education programmes and education webinars, keep our care centres open and tackle government on the issues of concern to our community.
However, to be really effective, we will have to consider how we can significantly increase our current annual income to enable us to deliver and expand our services and this will be a huge challenge for us in the short to medium future. However, it is a challenge we all need to embrace and work together to ensure we can meet the needs of our community now and in the future.
We can only continue the work of Diabetes Ireland with the support of the diabetes community. Become a member today and help us continue our work. To donate click here.