Projects aimed at tackling social isolation are paying off

Schemes tackling loneliness are paying off. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
Schemes tackling loneliness are paying off. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Projects in Hartlepool to tackle loneliness and prevent people from being cut off in their community are proving successful, say bosses.

Three initiatives designed to address the issue are reaching people at risk of isolation, a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council was told.

The council’s Adult Services Committee welcomed the work going on after a presentation by providers.

Projects that are making a difference are Project 65 by town disabled group Incontrol-able, which sees electronic tablets loaned to the elderly to use the internet; Age UK’s Hartlepool Befriending Network; and the council’s new Hartlepool Now website and app which acts as a one-stop-shop about local services that over 100 providers feed into.

Michael Slimings, Incontrol-able director, told the committee Project 65 has loaned out 22 tablets since its November launch.

The average age of people using them is 78 while the oldest was 86.

Mr Slimings said: “We’re delighted with the number of referrals we have seen so far.

“Twenty-two has exceeded our expectations for the project that started just before Christmas.

“It is a good way of removing one of the biggest barriers people face which is access to the internet.”

Lee Russell of Age UK Teesside told how its Hartlepool Befriending Network has received 24 enquiries and referrals from a wide range of organisations.

The service is aimed at people aged 65 and over and involves volunteers visiting people and providing a listening ear and help them to access social groups.

Five volunteers have been matched with clients and another four are due to be linked up this month.

Mr Russell said: “Ultimately, what we want to do is to try to create more independence in respect of the people that we are working with.”

Age UK aims to work with Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) to recruit more volunteers.

The council says tackling social isolation is one of its top priorities due to the effects it can have on a person’s mental and physical health and says can ultimately lead to hospitalisation or a reduction in independence.

Its Hartlpeool Now website launched in October 2015 and has seen a growing number of people logging on and downloading the app.

Councillor Stephen Thomas, chair of the Adult Services Committee, said: “I’m really pleased to see the progress that we’re making in this area.

“I think the projects that we are seeing here are really adding to the quality of life for people who are living within their own homes and are receiving care. Thank you for your hard work.”