One less lonely voice is a triumph – combatting social isolation

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Loneliness Awareness Week (15th to 19th June) is highlighting one of the great social scourges of our modern society.   

It is estimated that of a population of around 900,000 in Norfolk, the number of lonely or socially isolated people stands at 40,000. That’s about 4.5 per-cent. It’s the impact of being socially isolated on the individual’s physical health and mental wellbeing that is of concern. Community Action Norfolk is at the forefront of combating social isolation across our county, with a range of projects encouraging and enabling individuals to become involved in activities in their local communities.  

Let’s be clear about what loneliness is: it’s not the same as being alone. You can feel lonely in a family, in a relationship, or at work; conversely, many people are perfectly happy being alone. All of us may experience loneliness or social isolation in one form or another at some point in our lives but many people feel they can’t talk about it or are powerless to do anything about it. 

What is CAN doing? 

CANConnect sees our Development Officer, Sally Thornton, working with partner agencies, including Future Projects, across the North Norfolk district of Norfolk and Waveney CCG to help connect people with activities in their locality, as well as providing individuals with one-to-one support in identifying and achieving their personal goals. CANConnect also provides support for the community itself, helping organisations and people make the places where we live stronger, friendlier, and more resilient. CANConnect has awarded financial grants to local groups, such as Wells-next-the-Sea Men’s Shed, North Norfolk Writers’ Group, and a community garden scheme at Roughton, enabling them to find or hire premises and buy appropriate resources. 

Operation No Cold Shoulder is run in partnership with Age UK Norfolk, Creative Arts East, Future Projects, and West Norfolk Befriending. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it offers support to people in Dersingham and North King’s Lynn in the west of the county; Swaffham and Litcham in mid-Norfolk; Thetford, Fakenham and surrounding villages; and Mile Cross and Thorpe Hamlet in Norwich.  

Jackie Cushing, CAN’s Locality Manager says: “We feel the support on offer is particularly important during the COVID-19 lockdown.  Many vulnerable people are having to shield themselves to keep safe and this can have an impact on their emotional wellbeing, leading to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Operation No Cold Shoulder provides support that includes free creative arts wellbeing packs for people aged 18 and over, and free telephone befriending for people aged 60 plus.”  

And CAN’s growing network of Good Neighbour Schemes provides essential points of contact for isolated and vulnerable people of all age groups in communities across Norfolk  

What the government is saying this week

That loneliness and social isolation is taken seriously is indicated by the fact that the UK government has a Minister for Civil Society and Loneliness. This week Baroness Barran urged people to write letters and cards to friends, family, neighbours, anyone who is critically ill or vulnerable, and who is still isolating even as the lockdown eases. friends, family, and neighbours who are elderly or otherwise clinically vulnerable.  

“The last few months have brought loneliness to the forefront of our minds. We all have a role in being kind and looking out for each other, and as some of us begin to regain some normality we cannot forget those who may need to stay at home for longer and could be at risk of feeling lonely.” 

Read more here.