Level 1 (2011) & Level 2 (2014) Awards
CSJ Awards 2015 Winner
North London Cares, a volunteer-led initiative helping isolated older people, has recently used evaluation evidence to convince backers to help it open a south London branch.
It’s easy to become isolated in a big city like London, but charity North London Cares is working to build a sense of community by bringing together young professionals and their older neighbours at regular social events and through one-to-one activities. Founder Alex Smith is adamant it’s not a “befriending” scheme as the benefits are two-way, with the younger volunteers getting as much out of the interactions as the older participants. A similar scheme has been launched in south London.
"Love Your Neighbour helps to connect people who may not ordinarily have met, thereby helping to soften the unsettling effects of globalisation, gentrification, digitisation and urban transience, factors which can accelerate isolation and loneliness in London. Kathleen said that the scheme has reinforced her faith in the kindness of people."
"Older people often have deep roots and derive their identity from their community and yet have very few connections, whereas young professionals have lots of professionals but oftentimes very few roots. Bringing these two worlds together helps people to feel more connected in this rapidly changing world around us."
North London Cares' neighbours and volunteers Chloe, Lynda, Fred, Paul, Lexine, and our staff team, feature in this lovely short documentary about our work. Check out our Men's Cooking classes at Abbey Community Centre and our Saturday night dance in King's Cross.
“l love coming here,” says Mr Crowson. “We learn a new recipe every week and it gets me out and meeting interesting people instead of sitting at home looking at four walls all day. I was talking to a couple of students the other day. One of them had been to India and Dubai; another had just got a job in a film company. Young people really are adventurous and go-getters these days.” North London Cares is not a healthcare charity and makes no claims about keeping older people healthy or reducing the strain on GP surgeries and A&E departments. Yet a growing number of health professionals and researchers believe that’s exactly what “intergenerational activities” like this can and do achieve."
"There must be a lot of people in situations like Fred who need a little bit of extra time, a little extra companionship, and a lot of people like me who've got a little bit of extra time to help out a local neighbour. So we set up North London Cares four years ago to try and bring those two different groups together - young professionals and older neighbours - particularly in a rapidly-changing city like London."
"North London Cares is a brilliant initiative that has connected 1,200 professional people to 1,200 older neighbours. A South London Cares parallel charity is now also operational. [Founder Alex Smith]... argues that migration, gentrification, digitisation and commercialisation have disrupted once familiar and stable communities. Older people have become invisible in their own fragmented neighbourhoods. [It's time to] roll out the North London Cares franchise across the country."
“There’s a whole lot of people aged between 60 and 90 years old who have lived in the community their whole lives, have a deep affinity with the neighbourhood and have very deep roots but very few connections. There is another group of younger people who have hundreds of connections but not deep roots – that’s not healthy for the community."
"Government should be doing more to support civil society organisations that promote integration and shared understanding. For example, North London Cares matches young professionals with older people in a way that builds young people’s understanding of the history and heritage of the place in which they live and older people’s understanding of the more ethnically mixed younger generation."
"Alex Smith, 32, set up an intergenerational volunteering project, North London Cares, in 2011. It brings together young professionals with local older residents to provide mutual connection and companionship. He believes the discourse on intergenerational conflict is too simplistic: “In the modern world there aren’t enough opportunities for people from across the generational and social divides to interact.”
"We’re currently doing some work with the brilliant North and South London Cares. As an organisation, they are all about issues which are hard to measure, understand and control for. They look at loneliness, isolation and disconnection, and are focused on very human and relational approaches to tackle them."
"Look for the untapped potential in communities. North London Cares recognised many young Londoners are well-connected to peers yet often isolated in their immediate communities, without family nearby. Amongst them are older neighbours, often isolated but rooted in their area. They successfully made the link between the two groups, and have a packed schedule bringing together younger and older neighbours."
"Some charities have already got to grips with innovative ways to bring younger age-groups into volunteering. North London Cares recruits young people through social and professional networks and by word of mouth, and invites them to social events with older people. The charity is constantly working to remove barriers to volunteering by doing as much as it can online, cutting bureaucracy, and holding events after work and at weekends."
"Our volunteers don’t do the things that make life liveable, such as washing people, clothing and cleaning etc., but they do do the things that make life worth living – human interaction, learning new things, friendship cultural exchange. London is an increasingly anonymous city, and so many people are doing their own thing: North London Cares tries to enable a resurgence of neighbourliness."
"I took him to a hairdresser that he'd been to before, and that I'd been going to since I was a kid – so we had that in common – and he said that the interaction helped to change his outlook on life, even with a short interaction. There are a lot of people who don't have social networks of friends and family around them, and a lot of people like me who live in a local area and can give small amounts of time to help their neighbours."
"Cities are amazing. They're full of all sorts of people; they're dynamic, they move, they change – and the voluntary sector has to be dynamic too. We match well connected people who have the skills, the tools and the networks to make a difference to older people. We don't ask accountants to come and be accountants; we ask them to come and be themselves, and apply their humour, their sense of play, the things that make them human. It's not a healthcare solution that's going to solve a social problem. It's got to be people using people skills."
"I've started volunteering for North London Cares, which matches people in their 20s and 30s with older members of the community in Camden and Islington. It doesn't feel like volunteering at all. I feel privileged each time I meet someone new: I know that they enrich my life and that they enjoy it too."
"It was great to meet the people involved in North London Cares. To be honest I was astounded by the work being done by this organisation, it's just so impressive. There are so many young people from about 18 upwards, boys and girls, involved. These volunteers are great examples of how young people can help the older members of their community."
"North London Cares (NLC) is a community network established in 2011 which aims to mobilise a new generation of volunteers from among young professionals to support their older neighbours in need of a little extra time, practical help, social connection and human companionship."
"A community network that connects young people with their elderly neighbours is celebrating signing up 700 volunteers. Hundreds of people aged between 20 and 30 have signed up to spend time with older neighbours, either by visiting them at home or meeting up at one of the initiative’s events."
"It was a privilege to spend time with each one of our heroes. Some didn’t need much interviewing, and were happy raconteurs, camera or no. Others’ warmth, calmness and wisdom shone through. Whatever our neighbours wanted to give of themselves, we tried to capture – and to weave into a set of stories, all unique but all connected."
"Tackling this challenge is going to require a huge effort from policymakers, families and communities. Good work is already being done, with clinical commissioning groups and local authorities referring to myriad organisations to make interventions. And we can all make a difference right away. In this isolating weather, in particular, individuals can look out for older neighbours or volunteer through a local charity. Because even Dave Elvis gets lonesome sometimes."
Exactly a year since NLC regular Lil became a national sensation on the One Show by calling Notting Hill "boring" to Richard Curtis' face she was invited back with Andrea, Fred, Joan and Barbara to review the latest Curtis film, About Time. Check out what the NLC gang thought of the latest release – and the behind the scenes shots of their latest day at the BBC.
“A lot of people took to the tables, people in their 20s were playing people in their 80s. But it was something special when Fred Rooke and Quan Tbao played in the final. It was a fantastic game, all the volunteers and spectators really cheered them on. And every single person asked when the next one will be.” One woman tried ping pong for the first time aged 92."
""North London Cares is asking both young professionals and older residents to get involved with Matchday Mornings, a new Saturday group bringing together people of different ages to discuss the beautiful game. [NLC] would like to see the group watch matches together, discuss tactics, memories of great matches and players and questionable decisions from the referee."
"They have helped her get out of the house during evenings when she became lonely and they have provided her with a trusted network of volunteers who she now calls friends. North London Cares was very happy to deliver her a Christmas hamper, donated by the local newspaper the Islington Tribune, to demonstrate that the community cared for her at a difficult time."
As The Campaign to End Loneliness released figures about the extent of loneliness amongst older people in the UK, and Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt gave a speech on the challenges associated with isolation, we arranged for Lil to speak to ITV News about her experience.
"A survey of more than 450 older people (often in high rise social housing) in the London borough of Islington found that although many suffered from poor health and long-term illnesses which could be exacerbated by hot weather, most did not treat potential problems from heat waves as seriously as those from cold weather."
"We recruit young professional volunteers to spend a bit of time supporting their older neighbours, but also to create social connections in group activities where younger people and older people come together to share some time together, share some stories together."
“This is a big step for North London Cares as it’s our first long-term investment,” said Alex Smith, founder of NLC. “We were one of only seven groups in the country to secure the funding so it’s also a big endorsement of our work.”
"I'd like people to come in and have a cup of tea sometime. If I stayed in the house all day I wouldn't see anybody. I do go to a day centre. We sit and talk. And we've got a film club on a Tuesday, which I look forward to very much."
"Sarah Gaughan, 27, has just started her new position as volunteer programme coordinator at North London Cares, a community network that matches young professionals with isolated people who live in Islington and Camden. Sarah will be running current projects as well as creating new initiatives."
"North London Cares have started a film club. I did see one film, Notting Hill. But it was so boring. It was so boring I fell asleep. My favourite film is Casablanca."
"A knock on the door was very welcome for some people in Finsbury Park this afternoon as the community network North London Cares visited over 100 residents on the Andover Estate."
"'We went to an Italian restaurant for her birthday and had cake,' she explained. It made such a difference for her. She surprised herself in managing to get out of the flat and was thrilled she didn’t have to be in her wheelchair. Something as little as that put a smile on her face.' Lauren also benefited from their friendship. 'I’ve had to learn that slower pace. I’ve always been busy and rushed but it makes me less stressed.'"
"The Evening Standard’s Dispossessed Fund is making another £1 million gift to London. The money will tackle poverty in almost every borough by boosting the work of 66 grassroots groups who help the city’s poorest people..."
""As our populations continue to age, and especially as our budgets continue to diminish, we need to develop new strategies for how we finance our loved ones through comfortable, healthy and happy longer lives."
"On the Harvist Estate in Holloway the North London Cares street party on Tuesday also defied the rain to see face painting, an Arsenal in the Community penalty shootout competition and bouncy castles – as well as lots of food and drink."
"“Islington is all about diversity and it was great to celebrate that richness by bringing together a school, a football club, a business, a leisure centre, a martial arts group, a church and a cultural group; working class, middle class, old, young, black, white.”
"What we really want to do is create interactions and longer-lasting, more meaningful relationships between people. So we ask people to come back when they can. We've recruited about 50 volunteers and just over 100 older people. If these solutions prove to be supportive of people, I hope they'll be replicated and franchised around the country."
"Those small, personal interactions can have a really positive effect in people's lives, providing the connection, comfort, companionship and care many of our more isolated neighbours need."
"That’s what North London Cares is all about – recruiting people through existing social networks to harness the power of civic participation, and creating flexible, accessible, social, fun and rewarding volunteering opportunities for people."
"Regardless of how much stick the Big Society has gotten over time, there is a vibrant, buzzing, healthy social/community action ecosystem in Britain today...Organisations like North London Cares in London, a community network matching volunteers with volunteering opportunities close to their homes and workplaces."