Kent County Council has invested nearly £500,000 this year to combat loneliness.
The cash has been granted to voluntary organisations to fund befriending schemes which aim to buddy up vulnerable and isolated adults with volunteers who can help bring them back into the community.
On top of continued funding, worth £255,000, for ten organisations who were given a cash boost last year, Kent County Council has also given two grants, worth a total of just over £240,000, to two providers to develop countywide befriending schemes.
Recent studies have suggested Britons both young and old feel lonely, with research from charity Friends of the Elderly suggesting 35% of over-60s suffered from loneliness, while a study by Aviva suggested it affected half of 18-24 year olds.
The new grants are targeted at any adult, regardless of age, who feels isolated or lonely.
Graham Gibbens, KCC Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “Tackling loneliness and isolation is a priority as it can have a real impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Befriending is one way to encourage vulnerable people of any age to build relationships with others and make stronger links with the community.”
In East Kent, charity Porchlight was awarded the grant for befriending services in Dover, Thanet, Ashford, Shepway, Canterbury and Swale. Their befriending scheme aims to offer support for around 12 weeks to help integrate people into their communities and help them develop their social networks and relationships.
Porchlight’s head of community and youth services Chris Coffey said: “We are delighted to be running this service in east Kent which has benefited nearly 90 people so far. As one of a range of services, the befriending scheme encourages people who feel very isolated to become more involved in their community again.”
In West Kent, the Age UK consortium was awarded the grant to run befriending services in the Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells areas. They are running a more traditional befriending scheme where volunteers visit people in their own homes and build a relationship with them. They are also running a specific pilot in Tunbridge Wells targeting the LGBT community.
Paul Coles, Chief executive Age UK Maidstone, said: “The funding has enabled us to establish a partnership with the Age UK’s in West Kent, Maidstone Mind, Centre for Independent Living Kent and Simon Paul Foundation to offer a befriending service to vulnerable adults. Our partnership enable us to support people who become isolated and lonely through age, their physical disability or for mental health reasons. Since April we have had 26 people complete the process of becoming a volunteer with the scheme. Knowing how important befriending schemes are to people it was fantastic when Joan who used the scheme for six weeks decided that she would like to become a befriender herself.”
To find out more about befriending contact:
- West Kent – Age UK Maidstone, www.ageuk.org. Call 0800 048 4668 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- East Kent – Porchlight, www.porchlight.org.uk.
Dover and Thanet
Ashford and Shepway
Canterbury and Swale