Agenda item

Tackling Loneliness

Including presentations from Age UK and Rural Age UK


The Chairman welcomed to the meeting Liam Curran from Rural Age Concern Darent Valley, Gillian Shepherd – Coates from Age UK Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Margaret Samaran from Churches Together who each gave a presentation on how the different organisations were tackling loneliness in the District.


Liam Curran advised that Rural Age Concern Darent Valley, served the older people in the northern parishes of Sevenoaks since 1951. Services they provided were: Cottage Day Centre near Brands Hatch; lunch and social clubs in Swanley and New Ash Green; minibus services for Cottage Day Centre and lunch clubs; minibus services for shopping in Swanley and Northfleet; Charity Shop in Swanley with advice and information and hosted the NHS Pulmonary Rehabilitation Assessment Clinic to reduce the number of people having to travel to Dartford.


The Cottage day care provided space for 20 people to engage with the staff and build relationships. It was hoped that the service would expand in the future and be able to offer a wider range of activities. Some users of the services were at the early stages of dementia and the facility allowed them to be social with friends. Access to the internet was now available at the Cottage Day Centre and help with using social media was available to enable the older people to be in contact with family.


The minibus service provided users with the ability to go and do their shopping, especially if there was a lack of transport options available to them in more rural areas. Most of the journeys provided a social aspect as well, however there was a small charge for the service. The charity shop was another area that provided a social hub for people to visit. The shop was also providing the volunteers with the opportunity to gain confidence.


A document detailing three case studies which showed examples of the work that the charity was undertaking and how it had helped three residents was tabled. He advised Members that the website was currently going through a reform and there was now a central information hub on the website which listed all the activities taking place. It was hoped that additional funding would be secured to enable clients to access the ‘Feel Good’ power assisted gym equipment at White Oak Leisure Centre.


In response to questions, Members were advised that users of the service came from referrals from other Age UK charities, Social Services, family members and neighbours. Not many referrals came from doctors. The exact figures of users for the different services was unknown but would be sent to Members.


Gillian Shepheard- Coates informed Members that Age UK Sevenoaks and Tonbridge were an independent charity who were a brand partner of the national organisation. A map was tabled identifying the areas in the District that were at risk of loneliness. Three day care centres were run in the area 3 days a week. On average the number of users per session for Hollybush was 22, Edenbridge 18 and Tonbridge 25. Most of the users were referred by support services including GPs and Social Services, however many also came from concerned neighbours.


Lunch clubs were run by local volunteers and churches in 8 village locations with 40- 45 older people in attendance. Other services provided also included Independent living alone service providing shopping and counselling services, however this was a paid for service. Computer learning services were available in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and this services was also available in some sheltered accommodation schemes.


In Tonbridge there were 30 – 35 clients using the befriending service where volunteers were matched to client’s interests. It was hoped by training more volunteers the work load would be spread further. There were 1300 users of the services but future funding from KCC was unknown, especially with the number of older people increasing.


Margaret Samaran advised Members that she was the coordinator for the befriending scheme initiative from Churches Together for Sevenoaks and the surrounding areas and had been supporting people outside the Church community since 2005, including supporting volunteer mums to befriend older people locally. The scheme was run by volunteers from the churches.


To be a volunteer the process included an application form, reference from the church and a completed DBS from and then an interview. The thorough process enabled suitable pairings. Once a volunteer had been paired there would be an initial meeting and then a follow on of 8 sessions, with a review taking place. If both parties agreed after the 8 sessions then the visits could continue until the service moved into friendship. Currently there were two referrals waiting however more volunteers were needed.


Members thanked, Liam Curran, Gillian Shepheard –Coates and Margaret Samaran for attending.

Supporting documents:


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