Rise, a North East charity working with communities across Northumberland and Tyne & Wear, has delivered more than 4,000 activity packs that are helping people and communities most impacted by Covid-19.

High Street bank Barclays gave Rise a £100,000 grant through its Community Aid Package after identifying its work in supporting the needs of isolated elderly people in the region and those facing financial hardship.

The funding has enabled the charity to support older people in continuing to live independently by helping them to stay active and make sure they are coping day-to-day during the pandemic and beyond.

The Rise activity packs contain a range of items including resistance bands, stress balls, balloons and marbles, with a booklet of exercises and movements designed by physical activity experts to help improve strength, balance and coordination.

Rise has been working in partnership with all six local authorities across Northumberland and Tyne & Wear – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Northumberland – to deliver the packs to the people who need them most.

This includes older communities, particularly individuals using reablement services, to help them to retain or regain their skills and confidence so they can learn to manage again in their own home after a period of illness.

The packs are also helping activity coordinators in care homes to deliver group sessions or assisting with residents who have just left hospital following treatment.

Sarah Drummond, care services team leader for reablement at the Well Health and Social Care Academy in Newcastle, said: “A 96 year-old lady who received our help as she recovered from an infection, stopped going to her local gym due to Covid.

“The Rise activity pack allowed her to stay active and exercise from home. She described it as ‘a great idea to keep me fit and strong’ and said it also helps to beat the boredom.”

Adam Brougham, strategic lead for adult health and wellbeing at Rise, said: “Many older people living independently or using reablement services need extra support to regain their confidence and independence.

“Staying active is extremely important because it benefits both our physical and mental health, which is why these simple but effective activity packs are helping so many residents throughout Northumberland and Tyne & Wear. Delivering this initiative has been a real team effort, and we are grateful to Barclays and our local authority partners for their support.”

Angela Porritt, senior practitioner in the Sunderland Community Rehabilitation Team, said: “We have provided activity packs to residents in Farmborough Court, our Sunderland Care bed-based reablement service.

“The feedback has been fantastic. During a recent review visit by one of our rehabilitation therapy assistants after a client was discharged home, they said the exercises helped to keep them moving and they are continuing to try different things with the equipment. The client feels the more they use it the more benefit they get and doing exercises at home is not something they had tried before.”

Geoff Watson, Barclays area director for the North East, said: “The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact across the country, and we know it has been an incredibly challenging time for many people in our region.

“Through their local knowledge and ability to target support where it is needed most; charities like Rise are playing a crucial role in helping the most vulnerable in our communities. We hope that our partnership will enable more people to access the help as we emerge from lockdown and beyond.”

Rise, which was originally known as Northumberland Sport and Tyne & Wear Sport, launched last year when the two legacy organisations combined.  The charity is based at Royal Quays Business Centre in North Shields and is one of 42 Active Partnerships across the country, funded and supported by Sport England.

Its strategic focus is to encourage people of all ages and walks of life to be more active, in particular individuals who are currently moving for less than 30 minutes per week.

The team works with a range of local and national partners to make sports and physical activity easier and more accessible for people in the region which benefits the physical and mental health of our communities.