£11,000 boost for South Tyneside anti-loneliness charity

Coun Nancy Maxwell with Whitburn resident Olive Palmer and befriender Carole Valance.
Coun Nancy Maxwell with Whitburn resident Olive Palmer and befriender Carole Valance.

Your comments on our stories get things done. Gazette readers have had plenty to say about the need to look after older and vulnerable people in the borough – and South Tyneside Council bosses have been listening.

Today, Coun Nancy Maxwell, lead member for the voluntary sector, partnerships and co-operatives, outlines the council’s plans

A scheme to combat loneliness among older people in South Tyneside is going from strength to strength – thanks to the support by South Tyneside Council.

The Happy at Home project – which is run by South Tyneside Churches Together in partnership with the council – has been given £11,000 by the local authority to run a befriending service.

The scheme, which sees volunteers visit older, lonely people in their own homes, has proved incredibly popular with the council and other agencies referring people to to help alleviate loneliness and connect them with their communities.

Coun Nancy Maxwell, lead member for the voluntary sector, partnerships and co-operatives, said: “We have listened to people’s views on this issue Doctors have advised that loneliness can be as bad for your health as chronic health conditions so as a council, we want to do everything we can to keep our older people healthy and well.

“With the public sector facing unprecedented financial challenges, the third sector is becoming increasingly important in delivering the services our residents rely on.”

She added: “The work carried out by these volunteers makes the world of difference to our older people by providing a valuable link to the outside world as well as conversation and companionship.

“I am delighted that we have been able to help this group source some of the funding it needs to continue its vital work in easing loneliness.”

Happy at Home’s project co-ordinator, Margaret Stephenson Gray, said: “The money we get from the council is vital. We could not run the project without it.

“By working hand-in- hand with the council we are able to deliver this service, which we know makes a huge difference to the elderly and lonely in the borough.”

One person who uses the scheme is 94-year- old Olive Palmer ,of Whitburn, who receives a weekly visit from Carole Vallance.

She said: “The scheme is wonderful. Carole is a lovely lady and I really look forward to seeing her every week. I don’t get a lot of other visitors so her visits definitely make a difference.”

Carole, who used to be a social worker, has been visiting Olive once a week for three years.

She said: “I look forward to seeing Olive. We spend the time looking at photos, listening to old records or just chatting. I love to hear about her early life in the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and her passion for playing the piano.”

To meet the rising demand for the service, the team has organised activity events called Happy Hubs, where people can take part in singalongs, dominoes, painting, games and craft or just reminisce about times gone by.

The organisation used the council’s free Open 4 Community funding portal, which allows groups to search through a database containing hundreds of grants, awards and other forms of financial assistance from the European Union, charitable trusts and the government.

Voluntary and community groups in South Tyneside can find out more about the portal at: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/communityfunding.

To find out more about Happy at Home, visit www.happyathomesouthtyneside.co.uk/.