16 June 2023
Community First embraces Loneliness Awareness Week with new service
Hampshire organisation Community First has launched a new service in time for Loneliness Awareness Week (June 12 – 18), to tackle loneliness and mental health in people with learning and physical disabilities in the New Forest.
Commissioned by Hampshire County Council, Community Friends is a buddying scheme in the New Forest that sees volunteers matched with a disabled person for fun activities, such as going to the cinema, walks, and even to the football. They can also support with day-to-day activities including shopping and attending appointments.
Volunteers not only provide practical support but much-needed friendship, allowing people with complex needs to enjoy activities they wouldn’t normally do and a better social life.
Some 56% of disabled people in the UK are chronically lonely or feel lonely often, rising to seven in 10 in young disabled people. This is a result of a lack of funding in the social care system and access to community activities. With social care support reduced during the pandemic, staff levels have struggled to go back up – England has an estimated 165,000 vacancies in the adult care sector, with 10.9% of social care jobs unfilled.
Community First hopes to reduce the social and physical isolation of those with disabilities in New Forest with the Community Friends service but needs volunteers to donate their time.
Tim Houghton, Chief Executive of Community First, said: “Many disabled people don’t have support networks around them and feel cut off from their local community. Others may struggle to leave their homes at all or to access and use technology to connect with people.”
“A little face-to-face support from a friendly volunteer goes a long way in making them feel more confident and lead healthier, more independent lives. We are so proud to be able to provide a service that takes one more step towards tackling this problem.”
“I hope New Forest residents who might be able to contribute their time to support our service, will consider registering as a volunteer.”
Community Friends volunteers will meet with their matched individual for 2-5 hours per week, which could be split over more than one day (including weekends). No specific skills or experience are required.
For other volunteering opportunities in the New Forest, Winchester, Fareham, Havant or East Hampshire see Volunteer First