The topics of loneliness and isolation were raised by the ‘Voices to Be Heard’ group. They asked the Volunteering Team to look at different ways to ensure that people are not alone.
John Proctor, Volunteering Project Director, and Lorna Bird, Research Assistant, identified 83 people who could possibly benefit from the extra support a volunteer could provide. These people were asked to complete a questionnaire about their lives and possible loneliness. Out of this group, 60 people returned the questionnaire.
“The good news is that more than three-quarters of these people were accessing the community a few times a week and many people were very happy with their social lives. Despite this, nearly half of the people we surveyed would like more friends, and 35% told us they can feel lonely” said John.
After conducting the survey, the Volunteering Team have suggested three pilot areas: Moreton in the Marsh, Surrey and Sussex – supporting 15 different people. John and Lorna will be looking to identify someone locally in each area to act as a Volunteer Coordinator and work with them to produce a Volunteer recruitment strategy.
“We prioritised the people we support who told us that they felt lonely, and we hope that if we can successfully match them with volunteers who can help broaden their experiences in the community and meet new people – we can use this model to help others.”
This project is just the beginning of a wider picture to tackle loneliness and isolation, something which John says is still a big issue.
“We need to look in greater detail at what people have said, and work out what would add most value to improving the lives of the people we support. This research project was a great first step in helping those people most in need, and the next step would be to expand our reach.
We surveyed those people with the smallest support packages who were most in need, but are the people we support with higher support packages also lonely and isolated? Whilst we don’t want to make this presumption, it’s the next logical step in ensuring that we can best support people to lead healthy, active lives within the community” added John.
The project is just getting underway now, but we'll report against progress when we start to see results...