Our Winter Wellbeing project 2015/2016 was a major community outreach effort in Camden and Islington during the height of winter – a time when already isolated people can find themselves even more closed off, and less likely to access the resources and connections which make our community great.
We worked closely with Camden and Islington Councils' joint public health departments to identify older neighbours in need, and helped those neighbours to stay warm, active, healthy and connected through a combination of activities, provisions, referrals to council services and the creation of new friendships. By mobilising volunteers and partners from across our community network, including our good friends at Octopus Investments, our teams knocked on the doors of over 4,000 older people across Camden and Islington.
Speaking to that many neighbours really teaches you something. For instance, we learned encouragingly that a majority of people are not in urgent acute need, but many are hugely reassured by a knock on the door from a friendly face and the knowledge that someone is on hand in case circumstances change. Indeed, the typical response came from Dorothy from Tufnell Park who said that “Knowing there is a safety net is a weight off your mind”.
And yet for a significant minority (people in over 13% of all the 4,000 homes we reached out to) the Winter Wellbeing project is more than a happy connection at a tough time: it's a lifeline. Dennis on Hornsey Road phoned us on a Friday afternoon saying he'd run out of money and was facing a long weekend without food or heating. We helped Dennis with a small grant and accompanied him to the shops – ensuring he could stay warm, fed and healthy. He was referred for benefits and debt advice to prevent him ending up in a critical condition again. Dennis told us our help was “a godsend.”
And of course, there are many more such stories. Check out the infographic below:
In the context of a dramatically ageing population, huge pressures on Council and health services, rapidly changing communities and a loneliness epidemic, this project has become an integral part of how the community looks out for and connects our older neighbours during the most difficult time of year, when the days are short and the weather can be bleak. This was brought home to us by Arthur, a neighbour in King's Cross, who told us: “When you’re young, you have loads of so-called friends; but when you get old, they all run away – you guys phoned at the right time.”
The infographic and report (please see below) tell many more of these stories of connection – how our outreach teams linked older neighbours to the people and places around them so they don't feel left alone or left behind by the pace of change in our city, and how we connected neighbours in Camden and Islington to the many wonderful people, services and activities on their doorstep.
Please do give the report a read and share it if you can. We’re proud that we could build on the work of the previous four years with this year’s project which increased the number of people supported by 60%, demonstrating the real need for this type of community outreach programme. With your help we hope to reach and support even more older neighbours in 2016/17 – and for many years beyond.
Posted by Joe Cox on Tuesday 17th May 2016
Joe is North London Cares' Outreach & Volunteer Officer.