Stay in touch to avoid Loneliness during Coronavirus urge South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Swindon Seniors Forum
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Swindon Seniors Forum are encouraging people to reach out for support and find new ways to stay in touch during lockdown to avoid loneliness.
Robert, who joined forces with Swindon Seniors Forum over two years ago in a local campaign to tackle the issue of loneliness explained:
“With the government advising us to stay at home, it is important that we adapt to how we connect with people now more than ever. We all need to keep up those strong social networks that act as a buffer to help protect us against poor mental health.
“Staying in touch via video calls, WhatsApp or normal phone calls is very important. For many, the telephone will be the easiest and most accessible way to keep in contact. Some of this technology might be new or difficult to use for some older people. I would urge family members, friends and neighbours to offer help and support to install and use apps where possible and within the social distancing guidelines.
“If you are not tech-savvy, you could even write letters to show someone you are thinking of them.”
According to a survey recently undertaken by the charity Mental Health Foundation, almost a quarter of adults living under lockdown have felt loneliness because of Coronavirus, meaning that feelings of loneliness have doubled during this time in the UK.
The most affected group were young people (aged 18-24 years) – with more than four in ten (44 per cent) saying they felt lonely, according to the research study.
The next most affected group were adults aged 25 – 34, with more than one third (35 per cent) saying they had felt loneliness as a result of Coronavirus.
One in six older people aged over 55 said they had felt lonely as a result of coronavirus, according to the study.
The survey data, from 2,221 UK adults aged 18 and over, were collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic.
Norma Thompson, Chair of Swindon Seniors Forum commented:
“All of us at some point or other during this Coronavirus pandemic will feel cut off from our loved ones, especially those who are shielding.
"Many older people who live alone rely on going out and about for social interaction and will no longer even be able to have a conversation with a shop assistant who serves them.
“There is help out there and we would encourage anyone in this situation to get in contact with Swindon Seniors Forum on 07828 446672 or email email@example.com
"We have many befriending services available locally and even though volunteers are unable to make visits at this time, they are still offering this service with phone calls and letter writing.
“If you’re feeling anxious or worried about Coronavirus the charity Mind have some great advice and guidance on their website. Find out how to make a difference in your local area using these tips from edencommunities.https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/communityaction-response
“Some of our members are without an iPad, or laptop technology needed to communicate with family, friends during isolation, We are also appealing to businesses with spare ones to donate them to Swindon Seniors Forum.”
Tips on how to tackle Loneliness during Coronavirus
Arrange a cup of tea and a virtual catch up with someone you know.
Arrange to watch a film at the same time as a friend and video call, or even a regular phone call after the film to discuss it.
Send a text, email or a letter to a family member you have not heard from in a while
Send an interesting or uplifting article, photograph or quote to a friend, family member or neighbour
Call a work colleague to ask how they are finding the change in routine
Write a letter to a local care home resident. Contact Care Home Volunteers to find out more on 07931 022824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are on Facebook, join the Swindon Supports Group organised by Councillor Tim Swinyard and stay connected with other local people. You can find out more by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/1129094494108068/
Help an elderly family member, friend or neighbour to make the most of technology at this time. Age UK has provided helpful information to help get an elderly family member online, use Skype, social media and watch TV online among other things. They also have a Digital Buddy scheme. For further information visit https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/work-learning/technology-internet/getting-online/
If you are experiencing loneliness, be honest and reach out to a friend, family member or neighbour, you will not be alone in your feelings.
More information about Robert and Swindon Senior’s Forum’s local campaign to tackle loneliness can be found by visiting https://www.robertbuckland.co.uk/campaigns/campaign-end-loneliness-swindon
For further information or help to tackle loneliness please contact Robert by emailing email@example.com or ring 01793 533393 Please leave a message and a member of Robert’s team will be in touch.
Robert and Swindon Seniors Forum have been working together over the past 18 months on a local campaign to tackle loneliness, with the aim of bringing together key organisations in and around Swindon to discuss the excellent work that is already taking place locally, as well as discussing what further can be done to tackle loneliness.
Campaign to End Loneliness in Swindon (Summit Three) Thursday 29th November 2018 - Minutes
Rebecca Wolf on behalf of Robert Buckland MP
"Robert and Swindon Seniors Forum have been working together over the past 18 months on a local campaign to tackle loneliness, with the aim of bringing together key organisations in and around Swindon to discuss the excellent work that is already taking place locally, as well as discussing what further can be done to tackle loneliness.
"The aim of our third event is to look at the Government’s Loneliness Strategy, which was published in October and how this can be implemented locally in key areas such as Charities, GPs and Mental Health, Local Employers and Businesses and Transport. You can read the full document here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/750909/6.4882_DCMS_Loneliness_Strategy_web_Update.pdf
"We will also hear feedback from the “Be More Us – Belonging and Community Global Conference attended by Swindon Seniors Forum.
"We will hear from our speakers Julie Dowie, from Swindon Live at Home Scheme, about how this local organisation supports older people locally.
"We also have an update from Swindon Circles and Swindon Borough Council, as well as local organisation, Care Home Volunteers.
"Following a short break, you will have the opportunity to attend a series of workshops, which will look at how the Government Loneliness Strategy can be implemented locally in key areas. Our workshop hosts are:
C"harities – Fiona Prinzi, Deputy CEO at Swindon Carers
"GP and Mental Health – Dr Eric Holliday from Eldene Surgery and Ivor Bermingham from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership
"Local Employers/Businesses Sarah Morris, Director Santander
"Transport – Alex Chutter, Swindon Bus Company"
Feedback from the 4th Annual Global Conference “Be More Us – Belonging and Community,” Norma Thompson, Chair, Swindon Seniors Forum.
"Good afternoon and very warm welcome to the opening of the third loneliness summit, before we start I would like you all to spend a minute connecting with the person next to you.
"The aim of the conference in London was to celebrate, showcase, and explore the role of culture, sport and the arts in tackling loneliness.
"Following the resignation of the first Loneliness Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, the Prime Minister has appointed Mims Davies MP as the new Loneliness Minister."
Norma showed us Age UK Loneliness Heat Maps and explained how they should be used with local knowledge in order to help identify areas of need.
We also looked at the issue of Loneliness from a global perspective, including data from Denmark and how the UK compares.
"The good news is that the UK is leading the way in the campaign to tackle the issue of Loneliness. In January 2017, the world’s first Loneliness Minister was appointed in the UK by Prime Minister, Theresa May. The Minister was appointed following a series of recommendations by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness in order to carry on the work of the late Jo Cox who was tragically killed before the EU Referendum.
"The first cross government Loneliness Strategy was published in October 2018. As part of the strategy, The Prime Minister confirmed that all GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
"Loneliness is one of the most pressing issues our society faces today. It impacts upon millions of lives. Now we need swift movement on implementing the loneliness strategy.
"Loneliness is something that can affect anyone or everyone irrespective of age, race or class from the bullied child to the new mother, the pensioner who have outlived their friends and family to teenagers. Research suggests that one in ten appointments is being booked for social interaction.
"We as individuals have a role to play in this. An approach that tackles loneliness from all directions is vital: transport, education, business and health.
"Three quarters of GPs surveyed have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness, which is linked to a range of damaging health impacts, like heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
"The practice known as ‘social prescribing’ will allow GPs to direct patients to community workers offering tailored support to help people improve their health and wellbeing, instead of defaulting to medicine.
"As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, funding will be provided to connect patients to a variety of activities, such as cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups, reducing demand on the NHS and improving patients’ quality of life.
"Up to a fifth of all UK adults feel lonely most or all of the time and with evidence showing loneliness can be as bad for health as obesity or smoking, the Prime Minister has also announced the first ever ‘Employer Pledge’ to tackle loneliness in the workplace.
"A network of high-profile businesses – including Sainsbury’s, Transport for London, Co-op, British Red Cross, National Grid and the Civil Service – have pledged to take further action to support their employees’ health and social wellbeing.
"Loneliness can be detrimental to our health and it’s unacceptable that so many people still suffer in silence from this social injustice and stigma, but also they cut themselves off and so the community suffers. There have been several studies that have identified a range of factors associated with being lonely in old age. These factors include:
Social networks (living alone, being widowed or divorced, a lack of contact with family, friends)
"Health (poor health, limited mobility, social care needs or cognitive and sensory impairment, depression)
Individual characteristics (age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, low income, retirement)
Neighbourhood characteristics (structures of buildings and streets, local amenities, area reputation)
"That’s why it’s so important we are taking concerted action to tackle the problem, building on previous investment in social prescribing schemes to see healthcare professionals play a vital role in signposting people to local community services. Together we can help build connections, address isolation and support both mental and physical health.
"I would like all people in all communities to play their part and take time to connect with others (10 ways to connect poster)
"Together we can end loneliness in Swindon
Update from Swindon Circles – Kati Wood
"Swindon Circles work with Public Health on a range of projects in Swindon, which are funded by Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
"The Big Knit is a project where volunteers collect and distribute knitting needles within the local community, as well as teaching people to knit.
"Forget Me Not Cakes is a project where volunteers bake birthday cakes and provide cards for those suffering from loneliness within the local community who might not have otherwise received one.
"An Intergenerational Pen pal Scheme encourages people within the local community to interact with people of different ages.
"Coffee Connections is a group for people with confidence issues who are experiencing loneliness. The aim of the project is to provide a supportive environment and a stepping stone to accessing the wider community.
"There also Arts and Wellbeing groups, as well as Local Heroes, an organisation which was established in September, where you can sign up for adult volunteering opportunities. This includes walking dogs and providing transport. So far, Local Heroes have received 28 requests with 26 of these being fulfilled.
"We are also looking at who we are missing out on, for example, younger people who may have moved to the area.
"Swindon Circles is running a test project called Neighbourhood Connections who will work with local people to encourage activities and connectivity.
"We need to look at building on the energy and enthusiasm gathered in our summits and sharing information, as well as looking at the opportunity to work collectively.
"Swindon Borough Council want to be part of this network, looking collectively at funding so we can tackle loneliness in Swindon."
Norman Edwards, Care Home Volunteers
Norman explained that loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that applies to people in care homes too. Loneliness peaks between the ages of 16 – 24, tails off again and then at 75 plus, rises again.
People in care homes are a part of our community and it is our duty to look after them.
Care Homes Volunteers was initially set up by a group of people whose parents were in care homes. The question they asked was why weren’t their volunteers in care homes like there are in hospitals? The answer to this is that there are recruitment difficulties and many obstacles to overcome. Many people are not aware that they can volunteer in care homes and many are reluctant to because it means forces them to look at their own mortality.
Care Home Volunteers is a befriending service and work on a one to one basis. Volunteers need a lot of support to do this and Care Home Volunteers provide training sessions to help.
Around 1 in 10 people in a care home will receive no visits at all during the time that they are in there and research suggests that social contact for those in a care home is on average just two minutes per day. Loneliness and isolation increases when somebody moves to a care home.
Care Home Volunteers are the only group nationally who are doing something about this in Swindon. They have won a national award for the difference they make to the lives of people in care homes.
Care Home Volunteers is a specialist service which matches volunteers to a person’s individual needs. They often work with people in the advanced stages of dementia by using senses. Quite often, the volunteers themselves are suffering from loneliness.
May Evans – Swindon Senior Forum – Feedback from “What’s Age Got to Do with It” Workshop
There were three speakers at the workshop, which covered intergenerational loneliness.
The ideas discussed included young mums and babies, or those with school age children, visiting people in care homes, as well as linking young, professional people who have recently moved and may be suffering from loneliness, with elderly people in the community.
May asks could a similar scheme be set up with an existing group in Swindon.
Julie Dowie – Swindon Live at Home Scheme Manager
Swindon Live at Home Scheme is run by MHA https://www.mha.org.uk/ an award winning charity providing care, accommodation and support services for over 18,000 older people throughout the UK.
MHA has 33 volunteers in the Swindon area who are recruited through Voluntary Action. The Live at Home Scheme has been working to combat to loneliness for over 30 years and fed into the recent Government Loneliness Strategy.
The scheme is for those over the age of 55 who have either made direct contact, or have been referred. They work with those experiencing mental health issues, physical difficulties, anxiety and depression.
Swindon Live at Home helps those suffering from isolation by providing support with transport and assisting those in poverty by providing financial support. They also help where there has been a family breakdown and assist with issues such as hoarding.
MHA provide free signposting, information and support and are available to answer questions. They organise and run regular lunch clubs, IT courses and gentle exercise classes.
Fiona Prinzi – Charities Workshop
The charities workshop discussed how to reach out to hard to reach members of communities and asked the question, do we all know our organisations here in Swindon and what they do?
The charities workshop also looked at what further can be done to publicise the work taking place locally and what local organisations deliver, as well as sending out a clear message about the people who are being supported.
Further funding is required so that needs are understood and differences are accepted and understood.
Ideas included working with Parish Councils within Swindon to ensure that a good variety of activities are being run.
More charities working together.
Using the My Care, My Support, Live Well Hub
Trying better to understand the needs of the people they are supporting and learning more about them.
Local Employers and Businesses Workshop – Sarah Morris, Director at Santander
The local employers/businesses workshop looked at what employers can do for employees, as well as people within the local community.
The workshop also explored what facilities they are offering to employees and the wider community and the importance of publicising this more.
Ideas included local businesses joining together to share ideas and facilities, as well as information, in order to provide more support and to promote that support.
Santander run Scam Awareness Workshops and Getting Online Workshops.
GPs and Mental Health Leaders Workshop – Dr Eric Holliday and Ivor Bermingham, AWP
This workshop looked at social prescribing and asked the question, is this happening in Swindon? Link workers with Public Health will be on hand to continue to monitor and ensure that this is publicised.
The workshop looked at the various ways to identify Swindon, eg as a town and also as neighbourhoods within the town.
It is recognised that males are generally harder to engage with and the workshop explored ideas on how to engage and to keep men engaged.
Ideas explored included evening activities and pubs! (Thinking outside of the box is important).
Also organising a regular forum where volunteers and organisations could come together regularly to share info, support each other and to help to identify needs.
The workshop also explored the issue of loneliness in young parents and what we can do further to support those.
Issues included funding and finding volunteers.
Transport Workshop – Alex Chutter, Swindon Bus Company
The transport workshop explored long term aspirations including demand response transport. This is a mini bus which links all rural areas up with the wider bus network. Currently there is no funding for this within Swindon; however, this is something that can be explored in the future.
The transport workshop also looked at driver interactions with passengers and how this can be improved and increased, as well as training more drivers to be dementia friendly.
Swindon Bus Company now have a “Chatty Bus” with social seating and the company agreed that they can do more and want to play their part in tackling loneliness in Swindon.
Summing Up – Robert Buckland QC MP
We need to embed loneliness in all policy making locally.
This is our third loneliness event and over the past 18 months or so, we have come together regularly sharing ideas and information.
We now need to ensure that people are held to account and all follow up actions are worked towards before we come together again in the spring of 2019.
We need to look at and seek further funding to tackle loneliness in the town, exploring the Connecting Communities – Building Connections Fund.
I will also make contact with Loneliness Minister, Mims Davies MP, to feedback the work that we are doing here in Swindon and to share our ideas and ask for support with funding.
I want our community to help lead the Country when it comes to tackling the issue of Loneliness.
Update from Kati Wood, Swindon Borough Council, in response to a question ask at our first loneliness summit.
My care My support is essentially a directory of information which is self-populated by both agencies and members of the voluntary and community sector in Swindon to promote services, groups and activities which can support and promote better self-management, self-care and improved wellbeing and connectivity. We have listened to feedback from both customers and people trying to populate the site and recognise that it could be easier to use. As a result-a new platform-"My Life" will be operational by October this year which will have improved accessibility.