Members of the Age Action Alliance, Isolation and Loneliness Working Group will be familiar with the work which Link Visiting Scheme has developed during the last few years to end Loneliness and reduce social isolation, initially in Berkshire.
The Link Visiting Scheme’s primary focus continues to be on visiting socially isolated people in their own homes for around one hour, once or twice a week. Operating within the Wokingham Borough area of Berkshire, they also run a variety of activities which enable clients to widen their social network, gain new skills and improve their mobility and confidence. Activities include understanding computers courses, Pie and Pint Groups, Singing Group, Bowls Clubs and other seasonal events. (www.linkvisiting.org)
In 2012, the charity began exploring opportunities to encourage the development of similar schemes in other parts of the UK. A community franchise model was created in order to work in partnership with local churches, and a new charity called ‘Linking Lives UK’ was launched in November 2016 (www.linkinglives.uk) A community development approach is used to support local projects to establish local schemes by providing necessary training, advice, template documents, policies and procedures and up to date information about national developments.
I was delighted to be asked to be a trustee of this new charity particularly as the trustees believe that Churches and individual Christians can become part of the answer to befriending lonely older people. We are looking forward to having projects throughout the whole of the UK. There is evidence that older people often return to attending church in their later years, and there are a considerable number of attendees in the congregation who live on their own
There is growing evidence, of the detrimental effect that isolation and loneliness can have on health, wellbeing and life expectancy of people of all ages. The model of Linking Lives UK provides a crucial social point of contact which in itself, helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem and often leads to improved mental health and independence. Activities often lead to improved mobility, activities and events may lead to a wider circle of friends. Volunteer visitors also gain from the experience of sharing in the life of an older person.
As part of this month’s focus on older people through the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, Linking Lives UK has joined forces with other Christian organisations to encourage churches, Christian Charities and individuals. These organisations are Livability, Capital Mass, Pilgrims’ Friend and Gift of Years. Together they are publishing stories, blogs, and ideas using #HappyToChat and #FaithTogether which will collectively provide a valuable set of resources for those interested in addressing the issue of social isolation in their community. As one who is so enthusiastic about sharing good practice I am delighted to learn of this latest Christian initiative.
Following the success of Linking Lives UK,
Shelagh Marshall OBE
Trustee Linking Lives UK
Chair, AAA Isolation and Loneliness Working group.