The last six months has been a very difficult and challenging time for everyone in our communities, but especially vulnerable people living with long-term health conditions who have spent most of that time shielding and isolated. We know this is a worrying time for our service users who are particularly at high risk, but also for many of our older volunteers.
About the Merlin MS Centre Charity
The Merlin MS Centre is a purpose-built facility in Cornwall that provides clinical and therapeutic services to people affected by a range of neurological conditions*. The Centre opened in April 2009 and we have 10 staff and 130 volunteers. The Charity’s governance is the responsibility of a board of 9 Trustees.
Cornwall is a rural community spread with many isolated villages and almost a quarter of the population is over 65 Economically, Cornwall is one of the poorest places in Europe and specialised healthcare and accessible services for people with neurological conditions and disabilities are limited. (Office of National Statistics)
The Merlin MS Centre reaches these groups - our service users are mainly in low income households; disabled or living with a long-term chronic condition; many living in rural communities and nearly 70% are over the age of 60. (Merlin MS Centre service user survey 2019)
* A neurological disorder is any disorder of the nervous system. Abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves result in a range of symptoms, which can vary considerably from person to person. Service users may face physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. Conditions typically include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Stroke, Brain Injury, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The range of physical symptoms include partial or complete paralysis; muscle weakness; loss of sensation; problems with balance and physical strength; hidden problems such as extreme fatigue and continence problems. People living with long-term health conditions also face difficulties with their mental health such as anxiety, stress, depression as well as isolation and loneliness.
Impact of COVID 19
On March 17, 2020 the Centre was closed temporarily following Government and Public Health England Advice. For some people coming to the Centre for therapies, support and using our subsidised café was the only social contact they had and therefore it acted as a lifeline for many.
During Lockdown the Merlin MS Centre began offering some services and advice online and via telephone contact so it could continue to support people living with long term conditions and their families. It identified more than 220 of its most vulnerable service users and provided daily contact, remote exercise programmes, advocacy and signposting to other support services.
Many service users have complex health needs and struggled while the Centre was closed. Following the lifting of the lockdown the charity began a phased reopening with a reduced capacity and some significant changes to our operating procedures.
We are writing to ask for your support to cover the ongoing costs associated with operating in a COVID safe environment . This includes purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for therapy staff; providing sanitisers and wipes; and paying for additional cleaning products. (See table)
We receive no funding from statutory sources and as most methods of raising funds have had to stop, we really need the support of the local community.
If you can donate, no matter what the amount, we would be grateful