In this post Emma Parry, Community Projects Officer at Daventry District Council in England takes us through her Council’s Good Neighbour Schemes that aim to tackle the problem of isolation and loneliness among older people – as much of a pressing issue in the UK as it is here in Ireland.
Daventry District Council held an Ageing Well Consultation in January 2016 to coincide with The Ageing Well in Daventry District 2017-21 Strategy review. This reflected the ever-changing needs and aspirations of older people living within Daventry District, whilst taking into account the austere economic times faced by all local authorities and local communities.
The strategy was written against a backdrop of Daventry District’s ageing population. In 2016, 18.7 per cent of the population was age 65 years or older. This is expected to increase to nearly 25 per cent by 2026. Over the next 10 years there will be three and potentially four generations of ‘older people’. With an expected increase, particularly in those aged over 85 years, there will be increasing demand on support services.
Key issues and actions to be addressed included a real need to reduce the impact of social isolation and loneliness. Since then we have been partnership working with Northamptonshire ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) to develop and set up Good Neighbour Schemes across the Daventry district to help achieve our objectives. Successful schemes have already been established in Crick, Moulton, and Welton, with a number of other villages in the District also in the process of setting up projects.
The aim is to link local people who need support with those who are able to give it – whether it’s helping with a spot of gardening, picking up a prescription or showing someone how to send an email. Volunteer co-ordinators match the people who need help with those that have volunteered to lend a hand. We work closely with DACT (Daventry Area Community Transport) and the Daventry Volunteer Centre’s Happy at Home Partnership on the scheme.
Daventry District Council has grant funding of up to £1,000 available for schemes to get started. Villages are able to apply for money to buy a laptop and mobile phone (with paid sim card for 12 months) for their Good Neighbour coordinators to use in order to receive calls from residents requesting help. The funding can be used for training of volunteers (Safeguarding Adults and Lone Worker procedures), publicity and marketing items, basic insurance cover, costs to hire halls and locations for events.
Moulton was the first village in Daventry District to adopt the scheme and so far has helped many people since it was established in April 2017, providing volunteers ready to offer lifts, pick up medication, help at local wellbeing events and meetings or just offer a cup of tea and a friendly ear. It is run by Mary-Jane Brown, a Community Connector who is working alongside Moulton Parish Council and Moulton Surgery to improve health and wellbeing in the village and its surrounding area.
Mary-Jane’s team of volunteers have been able to help a wide range of people from befriending isolated people who are unable to get out, to helping at health and wellbeing meetings and events, designing posters, assisting a disabled person to get to the shops, and driving a minibus to get residents to games mornings and musical entertainment at the Community Centre. They have picked up medication for those who are housebound as a result of the snow, and been a friend to those who are lonely.
Residents of a sheltered housing scheme are also enjoying regular Sunday roasts and coffee mornings run by the volunteers. And those receiving the support are not the only ones to feel the benefit – many of the volunteers have boosted their confidence and wellbeing through being involved too.
For further information and video blogs please view: www.daventrydc.gov.uk/goodneighbours
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