Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In Calderdale 17,688 older people are ‘sometimes’ lonely, and 6,367 older people are ‘always or often’ lonely.
With so many local people affected The Community Foundation for Calderdale, a local philanthropy adviser and grant maker have decided to invest £150,000 in local voluntary sector projects which aimed at tackling isolation.
Emma Woods-Bolger, Assistant Director of the Community Foundation for Calderdale, said,
“In Calderdale, we have over 24,000 older people experiencing loneliness and isolation project like these which find local solutions are incredibly important.
“This is a huge issue for Calderdale, especially when you take into account that by 2037, 25% of Calderdale’s population will be over 65. This will equate to, approximately, 21,000 additional people over 65. Such a large rise, in a little over 20 years, will undoubtedly increase demand for services, we must act now to find local solutions”.
Seven partners have now been chosen to deliver on behalf of the Community Foundation; the projects cover three themes, befriending, access, and micro-commissioning services.
The projects are:
Theme 1 Befriending: Delivery partner: Age UK Calderdale
Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees currently run traditional befriending across Calderdale. This project encourages informal volunteering and develops volunteers to focus on supporting those with dementia within their community.
Based on a 2016-17 pilot in Ripponden who was also funded by the Community Foundation for Calderdale, Age UK will expand their Nearly Neighbours schemes in 2 new areas in Calderdale.
Age UK will also develop the use of a Dementia toolkit, a device used to engage with people living with dementia that can offer reminiscence activities and create booklets and hold personalised information.
Age UK will also deliver a Memory Mates service which will work in partnership with organisations in identified areas but will also offer support across Calderdale.
Theme 2 Access: Delivery partner: Community Transport Calderdale, Age UK Calderdale, and Todmorden Health Champions.
Luddendenfoot based charity, Community Transport Calderdale will deliver the ‘What’s in my backyard’ project which will offer day trips in the hometowns of older people.
Visits to voluntary/community groups, events and activities which will develop the community networks of those taking part will be offered.
This initiative aims to facilitate introductions to voluntary/community and statutory organisations in the hometowns of older adults which offer opportunities to reduce isolation.
The first year of the project will focus on the Upper Valley of Calderdale – Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd, moving on to the second phase which will encompass the rest of the Calderdale area.
“This funding will enable us to help a large number of elderly people in the area access vital connections within their area. This, in turn, will give them the opportunity to make connections with people and places leading to a hopefully, happier and healthier life” commented Steve Welsh, CEO of CTC.
“Chronically lonely people are more vulnerable to health problems such as infections, high blood pressure, are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia plus the effect on their mental health can be quite profound. We hope to, in some way, prevent some of these problems through the ‘What’s in my backyard’ project and thank Community Foundation for Calderdale for enabling us to do this”
The project will start in April/May 2018 and will create employment for a Co-ordinator/Passenger Assistant who will play a key part in running the project.
Age UK Calderdale will deliver a travel companion project, to support older people to navigate transport issues of all varieties.
The team will collate a comprehensive record of all transport services available to people across Calderdale, and coordinate complex transport issues for older people. Up to eight new volunteers will be trained to support via telephone or to be come travel comapions.
The team will also coordinate awareness sessions for transport providers around issues facing older people.
Todmorden Health Champions will provide transport for patients who are taking part in Todmorden Health Centre Champion Activities to enable them to visit other venues for social, cultural and educational trips.
Many of the current participants, are elderly, living within walking distance of the Health Centre, often in sheltered accommodation, on limited incomes, and with physical and mental health issues
Participants have little opportunity both physically and financially to visit other places, and are unable to benefit from the cultural and social opportunities on offer or to enjoy the freedom offered by parks and countryside sites.
Being able to provide transport will greatly improve the health and wellbeing of the group as a whole and enable them to experience different communities, venues and environments.
Theme 3 Network and Micro-commissioning: Delivery Partners: North Halifax Partnership, Hebden Bridge Community Association, Halifax Opportunities Trust and the Staying Well project
The delivery partners will work directly with communities to set up representative panels in local areas who will decide how the money is to be allocated at a local level, for example by commissioning services or through the allocation of small grants.
Danielle Durrans, Chair of North Halifax Partnership said,
“Community-led commissioning is a proven, effective way of ensuring that every pound is spent wisely. Local people know what works in their communities, where the gaps are, and what we should be spending money on.
“This fund is for two years initially but will enable Staying Well to support and strengthen existing community groups to develop and sustain projects to meet the need locally, and we will be working with the Community Foundation for Calderdale and our partners to hopefully attract further money to sustain these local budgets in each area.”
Work will start in October in each ward to develop community-led local steering groups with an aim to go live in all areas by April 2018.
Emma Woods-Bolger commented
“The Community Foundation exists to improve the lives of people in Calderdale, and we believe that putting local people at the heart of the decision making and importantly holding the budgets, is the best way to solve issues such as isolation and loneliness.”