Over 9 million people in the UK suffer from loneliness, with over 50 per cent of adults with a disability saying they feel lonely every day. Now, a charity is attempting to tackle isolation and loneliness in East Lancashire.
Accrington-based charity, Advocacy Focus, has joined forces with Electricity North West (ENWL) to provide a new community service in Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.
The East Lancs Community Focus project will support isolated people in the community who may lack digital skills or may need additional support to improve their confidence, increase independence and engage in their community. It will also help ENWL to identify and add people to their Priority Services Register so that people with mental ill health, the elderly or people with care needs or physical disabilities receive extra support during a power cut.
The service needs a minimum of 10 volunteers who will be supported by a newly appointed volunteer coordinator.
Justine Hodgkinson, CEO of Advocacy Focus, said: “This project is entirely volunteer led so we are relying on people to come forward and volunteer in their communities”. Our trained volunteers will visit a person in their home, perhaps for a cup of tea and a chat, and work towards improving their mental health and wellbeing.
“We are seeing a real crisis in our communities at the moment, especially amongst the elderly population, in regards to isolation and loneliness. Half a million older people go six days or more without speaking to another human being and some of these people can go for weeks without interacting with others.”
Reports suggest that loneliness is as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and those who feel lonely are also more likely to suffer from ill health. Lancashire County Council’s Adult Social Care Survey (October 2016) suggested that close to half of adult social care users and their carers consider themselves to be socially isolated.
Justine added: “Loneliness can affect people of all ages. Our new service will provide support to anyone over the age of 18 who feels they would benefit from our help and input.
"We see the East Lancashire Community Focus project supporting over 400 people a year, so we really do need people to come forward as soon as possible. It’s such an amazing opportunity to give back to your community and help improve people’s lives.”
Once the project launches on July 1, people will be able to self-refer, or can be referred through their GP, social worker, healthcare professional or the police service. All information on how to refer will be available on Advocacy Focus’s website from July onwards.
Justine finishes; “We are excited to work in partnership with ENWL and to make a further difference in our communities. We urge anyone who wishes to get involved to get in touch with us.”
Contact Advocacy Focus on 0300 323 0965 or visit www.advocacyfocus.org.uk