Communities link to help tackle isolation

Scheme manager Debbie Wood, third right, with the first five volunteers and supporters
Scheme manager Debbie Wood, third right, with the first five volunteers and supporters
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ISOLATION and loneliness are being tackled in Upper Beeding, Bramber and Steyning.

The Link Visiting Scheme was launched at Upper Beeding Baptist Church on Thursday, September 11, and a separate Isolation and Loneliness Seminar was held in Steyning on Tuesday, September 9.

Debbie Wood, scheme manager at The Hub in Upper Beeding, spoke at both events.

Having retired as a police sergeant after 30 years with Sussex Police, she landed the Link Visiting Scheme role in March.

She explained the project was about getting into people’s homes for ‘a cup of tea and a natter’.

“It is all about face-to-face communication, which some of these people don’t get for a very long time.”

At the launch event, national director Jeremy Sharpe explained the history of the scheme, which began in Wokingham in 1998.

It grew to a network of 19 churches visiting 165 people by 2007 and has a vision to reach 1,800 and set up 45 new projects by 2016.

“We believe that the charity can and should be very much part of the answer to social isolation,” explained Mr Sharpe.

The scheme was linked to The Cinnamon Network, which helps to facilitate community projects within churches, in 2012.

Victoria Lawrence, a Cinnamon Network ambassador, said: “We want to see every community involved with social action and making an impact on their community.”

Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney explained why Sussex Police went into partnership with The Cinnamon Network earlier this year, providing £32,600 over 12 months to help fund ten projects within churches.

“The police are here to reduce crime and to protect the vulnerable and nothing gets to the heart of that more than this project,” she said. “We are really glad to support anything where communities are helping themselves.

“We cannot do everything and nor should we. A healthy society is when people help one another.”

She said loneliness made people vulnerable to crime and highlighted cases where elderly people had been tricked out of their savings.

The first five volunteers to sign up to The Link spoke about their reasons for joining, which included personal reasons that recognised the need for such a service.

Sue Rogers, district and parish councillor, organised the seminar in Steyning, an invitation event for representatives of various clubs and societies.

As well as Mrs Wood, Age UK Horsham chief executive Janice Leeming and community youth worker Emma Edwards gave speeches about isolation and loneliness and how they affect people in all age groups.

Mrs Rogers said: “The aim of the seminar was to inspire and be thought provoking, to recognise a problem as a community and to find solutions locally together.

“We had 54 attendees. I was delighted with the response and the participation.

“From the numerous conversations I had during the afternoon, I feel sure that a number of initiatives will be forthcoming.”