East of England Co-op gives £70k to local organisations in bid to tackle loneliness

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The East of England Co-op has awarded £70,000 to local charities and groups across the region in a bid to tackle loneliness.

Working in partnership with the Community Foundations in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, the East of England Co-op’s Tackling Loneliness Fund was promoted to local charities and organisations who bid for a share of the funding.  
Chris Matthews, Chair of the Membership and Community Engagement Committee (MCE) who approved the funding, said: “The Co-op has a long and proud history of supporting communities and tackling the big issues that affect us all. Loneliness is a growing concern and we wanted to do something that would directly benefit lonely and isolated people living in the communities we serve.”

22 applications were shortlisted by officers from the three Community Foundations and the East of England Co-op which were approved by the MCE together with a further scheme, ‘Supporting Women and Activities Network (North Norfolk)’ and the Goodgym project in Norwich. 
Caroline Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at Essex Community Foundation, said, “In many ways we are more connected than ever before, but people still feel lonely and isolated.  The benefit of working in partnership with community foundations across the region is that we can reach small, local charities working in the heart of their communities. The grants awarded in Essex are helping to connect people and provide a wide range of activities for all ages, helping them to socialise, enjoy life, access help and support, feel valued and contribute to their community.” 

Teen Talk (Harwich) provides emotional support for young people aged 11-25 years. Covering two main areas; one to one support and group activities they allow young people to access their service directly. Their drop-in service provides instant access to a support worker where young people can offload their worries and concerns and be provided with strategies to help them develop their skills to overcome or manage the difficulties they face day to day. 

Teen Talk (Harwich) are using the funding to run a series of ‘This is Me’ courses for groups of 14-16 year olds, who are struggling with self-esteem, identity and confidence.

Hayley Lovett, Chief Executive Officer at Teen Talk (Harwich), said, “This is an informal programme that allows young people to build better relationships and be more confident through creative activities. They identify their own strengths which they develop to empower them to be more resilient. Through the course, new friendships are formed, improving the young people’s confidence, helping them to improve communication, become more aware of their unique characteristics and raise their self-worth reducing the impact of loneliness.”

Claire Cullens, Chief Executive Officer at the Norfolk Community Foundation, said, “In a large rural county with an increasingly ageing population, loneliness and social isolation are key issues with a clear impact on health outcomes. It is important that we utilise the services available and connect those isolated or lonely to community groups and activities, community transport, learning and volunteering opportunities and physical activity to improve social and physical wellbeing.”

In Norfolk, funding was awarded to enable Sunbeams Play, a registered charity, which provides a fun, safe and caring environment for children and young people with ASD, to rent a training room to provide parents and carers with enhanced support and training.

Sue Carr, Deputy Manager at Sunbeams Play, said, “Our support service is now established with a new ‘Well-being advisor’ in post and we are able to offer 1-1 support to parents, carers, siblings and the children/young people themselves.

“Alongside 1-1 support we are offering assertiveness and confidence building workshops to those who feel they can move on into a group setting.”

Andrea Pittock, Head of Grant Programmes at Suffolk Community Foundation, said, “Feeling lonely can have such a damaging impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. It is a problem that is often hidden in its very nature and can affect literally anyone from any walk of life and at any time of life. Often it takes someone else to spot the problem and extend the initial caring hand of support, advice or companionship. The variety of projects supported by this grants programme will go some way towards supporting our brilliant Suffolk Voluntary sector to reach out to lonely people in our towns and villages. That first step is often the hardest to take but many 100’s of people will benefit from this generous act of giving from the members of The East of England Co-operative.”

Based in Ipswich, ActivLives provides support and motivation to people to improve their own health and well-being; keeping them connected with their communities to reduce social isolation and loneliness and providing access to learning, training and volunteering opportunities.
ActivLives were allocated a grant from the Tackling Loneliness Fund to set up dance classes for older people. Julie Stokes, the charity’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “The funding and support from the East of England Co-op – Tackling Loneliness Fund and Suffolk Community Foundation will enable ActivLives to develop three, six-week Ballroom dance sessions at different venues across Ipswich for older people. It’s fun and helps people to meet and make new friends and reduce loneliness and social isolation.”