Grant funding helps charity tackling loneliness and isolation

MHA-Communities-Jayne-and-Jackie HI grantA charity in North Tyneside is helping older residents overcome loneliness and isolation by sitting down for a chat, a phone call, or even a cup of tea.

MHA Communities North Tyneside offers telephone and in-person befriending, activity sessions and enablement for residents who need support, or just a friendly face to talk to.

The charity strives to help over 55’s lead fulfilled, active lives, whether that’s by encouraging them to join a lunch club, supporting them in their local community by coming to appointments or popping to their house for a chat. Its volunteers make a big impact on people’s lives.

In June 2022, it received almost £23,000 funding from the Health Inequalities Fund which is hosted by VODA and funded by North Tyneside Council and the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board.

This funding is being used to help people who are lonely and isolated and has offered short-term befriending over six weeks to a number of residents.

One resident who’s benefited from these befriending sessions is Jackie Ball from North Shields. Every week Jackie is visited by MHA colleague Jayne Thompson, where they sit and talk about everything and anything for an hour.

Jackie isn’t comfortable joining group sessions and activities, so a one-to-one friendship and chat with someone is perfect for her and over a few weeks she and Jayne built a brilliant relationship where they laugh, joke, and offer support.

Speaking of her experience of the sessions Jackie said: “I can’t praise Jayne enough, I look forward to her coming and we sit and put the world to rights together. We talk about everything, our families, the news, whatever comes to our mind.

“I’m so comfortable talking to her, I feel like I’ve been friends with her for years and it’s uncanny because I’m not usually that open with someone.

“I was unwell the other week, I knew I was bad, but I didn’t realise just how bad I was, and it was when Jayne was visiting. When I finally made it to the door, I knew I needed help, and she was there to call my daughters and help me. If she’d have walked away that day, I dread to think what could have happened.”

Part of Jayne’s role at the charity is to visit those who are referred to the scheme and she says it’s one of the best parts of her job: “I really enjoy coming out to see Jackie and just sitting with her and hearing her stories, talking about everything really.

“It’s great to sit and build a friendship with someone and that’s what we have now. When I came that day and Jackie didn’t answer the door, I knew something was wrong and if she hadn’t made it to the door, I would have called 999. That’s what we’re here for, to help people, and I’m very glad I was there.

“It’s a brilliant job to have, and it’s so rewarding when you see a smile on someone’s face and know that you’ve helped to make them feel that bit less lonely. We’re always looking for volunteers so we can expand what we do, and I’d really encourage anyone who’s thought about volunteering or doing befriending, to get in touch with us.”

Cllr Karen Clark, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at North Tyneside Council, said: “Feeling lonely and isolated can have a big impact on someone’s life, and often something small like a chat, a phone call, or getting out of the house can make a really big impact. Seeing the work MHA Communities is doing is fantastic and hearing how it’s helped Jackie is a brilliant example of why it’s vital that these services exist in our communities.

“We want our borough to be a place where everyone is supported no matter what their circumstances are and by funding charities like MHA we know that our residents are receiving the benefits which is brilliant. “

The Health Inequalities Fund, developed by the members of the Better Together group, awarded grants of between £10,000 and £30,000 to fourteen

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector organisations in Summer 2022.

All funded activities focus on delivering outcomes relating to the key themes of the recently published Equally Well strategy for North Tyneside – ‘Equal life chances for all’, ‘Thriving places and communities’ and ‘Maintaining independence’.

MHA Communities North Tyneside is recruiting volunteers now. If you’re interested in offering your time to volunteering with the charity, get in touch on 07568 611 991 or visit their website.

By

Laura Bolden, North Tyneside Council

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