Robert's Weekly Column - 5th December 2018

Although I am working hard on Brexit issues, I continue with my local campaigns and community activities as vigorously as ever and I was delighted to see so many people at Buckhurst Community Centre in Walcot last Thursday when I hosted my third Loneliness Summit with Swindon Seniors Forum.

As you may have read in my previous columns, I have been working on a local Campaign to End Loneliness with Swindon Seniors Forum over the past eighteen months or so. The third event was busier than ever and it was great to see so many local charities, organisations and businesses represented at the event including those from the mental health/GP sector, the voluntary sector, local employers and businesses including Santander and Zurich, as well as those representing the transport sector, including Swindon’s Bus Company.

During the event, Swindon Senior Forum provided feedback from the recent “Be More Us – Belonging and Community Global Conference”.  It was extremely interesting to hear how other countries, such as Denmark, are tackling the issue of loneliness and how the UK compares.  I am pleased that the UK is leading the way by appointing the World’s first Loneliness Minister back in January and launching the first cross-Government Loneliness Strategy to tackle it in October.

At the event, Swindon Circles of Support Befriending Service provided information about local initiatives that have been put in place.  The organisation who work very closely with Public Health and are funded by Swindon CCG, provided information about the “Big Knit Project” where volunteers collect donations of needles and wool and distribute them, as well as teaching people to knit. We also heard about the “Forget Me Not Cakes Project” whose volunteers bake birthday cakes and give them to people suffering from loneliness who might not have otherwise received one. 

Swindon Circles also runs “Coffee Connections” a support group for people with confidence problems, which is used as a first stepping stone to accessing the many groups that exist in the local community.  We also heard feedback about the arts and wellbeing groups being run in Swindon, as well as an intergenerational pen-pal scheme.  Many of us wrongly assume that elderly people are the only ones affected by loneliness, but this issue can affect anyone at any age, including younger people who may have recently moved to our area to work.

During the event, we also heard from the local organisation “Care Home Volunteers” whose volunteers visit people in care homes who may not have otherwise received any visitors. The local organisation provides specialist training and support to volunteers, who often visit those suffering from dementia and communication difficulties.

We heard an update from the Swindon Live at Home Scheme, who have grown since our last event and are now looking at providing support and groups to the over 65s in more areas within the town, including Park North.

During the second part of the event, targeted workshops took place to look at how the Government’s Loneliness Strategy is already being implemented locally in key areas such as mental health/GPs, local charities, local employers and local transport and we discussed what further measures can be taken.

As our work to tackle loneliness continues, I would like to thank Swindon Seniors Forum for all of their hard work over the past eighteen months. Their work is making a real difference to the lives of so many people in Swindon.

Finally, if you would like to become involved with any of the projects I have mentioned above, or you require further information, please contact me by ringing my office on 01793 533393 or emailing robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk By working together we can make a real difference to the lives of those suffering from loneliness here in Swindon.