The COVID-19 pandemic has created a social crisis in our community that has led to disruption and anxiety among all and severe financial and wellbeing impacts on people who already face some of the most entrenched and complex disadvantages. The impact of the pandemic on the older communities we support has been particularly dramatic: elderly people. For those without family or close connections to their neighbours, going without social contact for months on end has been severely damaging. Groups that don’t speak English are particularly at risk of falling through the gaps of the local help that is available. Where we work, Somali and Bangladeshi communities – who make up about 30%.
Supporting 100 (20 local young people and 80 older people) to build stronger relationships with one another and across generations in Tower Hamlets. Funding will help towards volunteer costs including recruitment, training, DBS checks and refreshments, and travel for befrienders. Expected impact: • Greater wellbeing and reduced loneliness for severely isolated and/or housebound older people • Improved mental wellbeing and ability to overcome related barriers to building social networks • Young people gain a deeper understanding of and empathy towards older people in the community • Older people who do not speak English as a first language feel able to build connections in the community
This project is built on the deep connections we have to our community and the issues they face. As an anchor organisation, at the heart of a constantly changing community in East London for over 130 years, we are a place where people have come together to support each other, make change in their own lives and those of others, and strive in partnership to make a fairer and happier future, in London and beyond. This project has been co-designed and co-produced by older people living in Tower Hamlets. With their lived experiences they are best placed to take the lead in shaping how we run activities or running groups themselves.
|Volunteer recruitment, training and expenses - Recruitment, DBS checks, training, travel and refreshments costs for befriending volunteers.
Connecting 100 severely isolated community members, the project will: Survey participants using a well-established survey of Wellbeing Scales after 3 months and conduct interviews. The data we collect will provide a combination of empirical evidence (number of new friends made; how often participants leave the house; how often they feel lonely), in addition to self-reported data. This approach will allow us to compile rich evidence for what works to reduce isolation, enhance wellbeing and improve older people’s ability to improve their health. We will also: • Conduct participant post-engagement surveys with volunteers (both older people and student buddies) • Continue to assess and evaluate the longer-term outcomes and impact • Continue to monitor participants who progress into different volunteering roles, enabling us to track longer-term outcomes for those involved in the project on a multi-year basis
In 2020, we matched over 102 severely isolated older people with befriending volunteers. 84% of people said their sense of connectedness increased. Throughout the pandemic, we have been offering blended services including: 1. Volunteer befriending – scaled community outreach programme to meet the increased need for basic supplies including food and medicines for the frail community members. 2. Informal virtual group English lessons – volunteer-led, multi-lingual cultural exchange sessions and weekly conversation club. 3. Digital inclusion - volunteers to provide weekly telephone guidance and troubleshoot to older people to access online services – from skype, Facebook, email. “I have come to appreciate that Toynbee Hall is a supportive community of vital importance to many local people. A buddy has kept in touch with me with weekly phone calls that have helped enormously during these difficult times” Local resident, Tower Hamlets