As we mark the one year anniversary of going into national lockdown, Aspens' CEO Robbie Shanahan reflects on a rollercoaster of a year and the lessons learned. 

"It has now been 365 days since the Prime Minister stood up at 8.30pm on 23rd March 2020 to announce a national lockdown. So much has happened in the last year, but I would like to begin by taking us further back to 11th March, which for the football supporters amongst us, was the evening Liverpool FC played Atletico Madrid. Little did I realise it would be the last football match held in the UK with a full capacity ground for over twelve months, with fans visiting from a European country already in lockdown. Even then, I don’t believe any of us could realise what we would go on to experience.

What an incredible rollercoaster it has been, changing all of our lives in so many ways, which, let’s be honest, most people would have laughed at previously. I am incredibly proud of our team who have led us through this time with amazing commitment, ensuring the wellbeing of each person we support and care for has been our central focus and I’m enormously thankful to them all for the dedication, care, support and hard work they have provided these past 12 months.

As a charity we have found many new ways of working – adapting to using virtual platforms such as Zoom or Teams to continue offering vitally needed support and connection when many of our services had to stop. We’ve also embraced the virtual world for our fundraising activities, with our online events including AspensFest, the Halloween Spooky 5K run, our online quiz nights and our virtual Christmas service. This has helped us continue raising much-needed funds as well as to maintain the very important feeling of community and connection.

As we come out of this first year of the pandemic, there is a glimmer of hope with the roll out of the Covid vaccine (we’re delighted that over 80% of the people we support and 75% of our staff have now received their first jab). With lockdown restrictions due to gradually ease over the next few months, our shops and café due to re-open and more fun events in our calendar, we are tentatively looking to the future with a feeling of optimism. We do however remain extremely vigilant against this destructive virus and recognise there is still a very long way to go in fighting it.

We have learnt many lessons in the last 12 months. The biggest one is to remember we are not alone. The support we have had as a charity from the families we care for and the wider public, including many notes of thanks, donations, fundraising efforts and volunteering, have all lifted our spirits enormously and helped us through this extremely challenging time. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to you all, we couldn’t have got through it without you.

We hope you'll join us in marking this day of reflection with a minute's silence at 12 noon and on your doorstep at 8.00pm this evening, with a torch or candle." 

Robbie Shanahan

Further details on the National Day of Reflection, organised by Marie Curie, here.