Elderly people in care homes isolated from friends and family will be able to stay in touch more easily, thanks to Wiltshire Community Foundation coronavirus grant. Care Home Volunteers, which works in care homes across Swindon and Wiltshire, has been given £5,000 from the community foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund to buy tablets so residents can make video calls.

The fund has now raised more than £670,000 and given grants totalling more than £425,000 to 119 groups across Wiltshire.

Care Home Volunteers chairman of trustees Norman Edwards said the loss of so many lives in care homes has left many residents anxious and alone. “Care homes are closed to all visitors, including relatives, at the moment, except for relatives at end of life. That includes our volunteers as well so they are writing greeting cards, making telephone calls and doing some video calls but we would like to have more video calls and we would like more residents to be able to call their families,” he said.

“Many of the residents need carers to help them make calls and I know many carers are using their own smartphones, which is not the best solution. We want to make it a little bit easier for care homes to be able to facilitate video calls to our volunteers or their family.”

The group, which makes more than 2,000 visits a year in 35 care homes, usually befriends residents who have no family or have relatives many miles away but now all of them are locked down it is contacting more people.

The charity, formed in Salisbury in 2014, has lost some of its own volunteers who have been isolated. But, said Mr Edwards, the coverage of the loss of lives in care homes has inspired more to come forward. “We would prefer it to be face to face as that is the best way of overcoming loneliness,” he added.

He said the number of deaths and the extra measures being taken to stop the infection spreading has left some residents feeling anxious. “Care homes may have staff shortages because of staff isolating, there are agency staff and masked faces, so people with dementia may not understand what’s going on. And the people who do understand what’s going may be worried,” he said.

“The video calls are really just contact with a face from outside to know the world is going on out there to stop them feel more secure. Video calls are quite difficult but a friendly and familiar face is quite important. We’ve all found Zoom calls to family are important and it is no less for them and perhaps even more important. It’s also important to the families who haven’t been able to see them for months.”

He paid tribute to care home managers and staff for the dedication to their elderly charges. “They have been wonderful throughout this crisis,” he said. “Some of them have been camping out in care home gardens to prevent the infection spreading, their devotion to duty is way above what has been asked of them.

“There is a real need for any outside contact for care home residents and I am really pleased that we have been able to continue and really grateful to the Wiltshire Community Foundation for the grant.”

To find out more about the group go carehomevolunteers.org.uk.

Fiona Oliver, interim co-chief executive of the community foundation, said: “So many of the groups we’ve funded have adapted their services to respond to the needs of the people who rely on them and we are delighted to support wonderful causes like Care Home Volunteers who are working hard to make life better for elderly people at such an awful time.

“We are so grateful for the donations we’ve had from the people of Wiltshire to the fund and we really need them because the applications are still coming in thick and fast.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.