Leeds Neighbourhood Networks Schemes are in the process of temporarily stopping their many and diverse activities for older people during the Covid-19 outbreak. This is an enormous step for the Neighbourhood Networks, who have the health and wellbeing of local older people at the heart of what they do.
The networks now find themselves re-imagining service delivery in unexpected circumstances and rethinking ways in which they can continue to support local people. One of the main areas of work for the networks is preventing and reducing social isolation and loneliness.
Maintaining social contact with older people during this time is high on their list of priorities; to reduce the impact of self-isolation, alleviate fear and address potentially deteriorating mental and physical health. Neighbourhood Elders Team in Garforth (NET) is one example of how the Neighbourhood Networks are rapidly shifting how they work, as they close down their centre and regular activities.
Working in partnership with current volunteers, local business, health, faith and voluntary and community sector partners, the staff team have responded to the needs of their more vulnerable members with a new telephone befriending service.
Interested volunteers attended briefing sessions asking them to sign up. Their role is to provide daily telephone support for up to 20 minutes to a maximum of four individuals identified as being vulnerable. This will ensure ongoing contact, regular social interaction and enable NET to ‘signpost’ if needs be, to health professionals, social services and other partners. Volunteers each have a pack to support them and are advised on ways to support and encourage: for example, recommending exercises to do in the home to maintain movement and muscle. Each volunteer will have the support of a paid member of staff and supported by clear safety procedures as well as access to counselling, provided free by local counselling partners
The staff team will provide daily befriending to NET’s most vulnerable and at risk clients. As with volunteers they will signpost to health professionals and others as the need arises.
This is only one example of how Neighbourhood Network Schemes are responding to continue meeting the needs of older local people. Many more are happening across our city, to ensure older people remain linked in with their communities.
Please tell us about new projects that are making a difference.
Ali Kaye Third
Sector Development Manager