Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In Calderdale 17,688 older people are ‘sometimes’ lonely and 6,367 older people are ‘always or often’ lonely.

Current estimates suggest 18% of the population in Calderdale is aged 65 or over. By 2037 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 25% of Calderdale’s population will be over 65. This will equate to, approximately, 21,000 additional people over 65 (ONS, 2014). Such a large rise, in a little over 20 years, will undoubtedly increase demand for services and the prevalence of conditions pertinent to older adults.

With so many local people affected we have taken the decision to invest £150,000 in local voluntary sector projects which are aimed at tackling isolation across three themes: Befriending, Access, and Micro-commissioning services. Seven delivery partners have been chosen, and details of the projects they will deliver are listed below.

Theme 1: Befriending 

Delivery partner: Age UK Calderdale

Project: Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees currently run traditional befriending across Calderdale. We are looking to develop this model to encourage informal volunteering and develop volunteers to focus on supporting those with dementia within their community.

1 member of staff to develop (based on our 2016-2017 pilot in Ripponden and 3 successful years of working within communities in Kirklees “Nearly Neighbours” schemes) in 2 new areas in Calderdale. The project aims to create supportive networks for people to support those within their communities experiencing isolation and loneliness. We will increase awareness of issues facing older neighbours by working with existing groups, community champions and volunteers. The project will support and encourage people to be more neighbourly.

This member of staff will develop the use of our Dementia tool kit, a device used to engage with people living with dementia that can offer reminiscence activities and create booklets/ hold personalised information. Supporting volunteers to use this technology with older people in these communities and create Lifebooks for older people through this project.

1 member of staff to – develop a Memory Mates service which will work in partnership with organisations in identified areas but offer support across Calderdale. There will be two pathways to befriending depending on eligibility – our existing traditional befriending service and Memory Mates which will be a Dementia specialist befriending service.

Theme 2: Access

Delivery partner: Community Transport Calderdale, Age UK Calderdale, and Todmorden Health Champions. 

Project 1: Community Transport Calderdale want to help combat isolation amongst elderly people in a two-phase project. The first phase will take place in the Upper Valley of Calderdale and will operate during the first year of the two years Isolation Grant. The second phase will operate throughout the rest of Calderdale and will take place during the second year of the Isolation Grant.

Day trips out are certainly one way of helping to reduce isolation, but they are episodic and don’t necessarily help to root people into the community networks that already exist in their hometowns. We want to tackle isolation in a more fundamental, long-term and sustainable fashion. Underlying the project is the concept of Social Prescribing, delivered through a network of partnerships in elderly people’s own hometowns.

We will offer day trips within people’s own hometowns to visit places of voluntary/community groups events and activities which will develop their community networks either through volunteering opportunities and/or through encouraging elderly people to continue to visit such places. The project aims to facilitate introductions to voluntary/community and statutory organisations in the hometowns of elderly people which offer opportunities to reduce isolation.

For example – in Todmorden, there are three care homes/sheltered accommodation units for some 70 elderly people. In addition, Age UK Todmorden has a database of some 900 elderly people. Undoubtedly there will be other elderly people outside of these two organisations. The elderly people will have different health and care needs. Some will be sufficiently mobile and active, others less so. Some will be wheelchair bound and some will be in various stages of dementia. Our minibuses are all accessible. We shall offer full day trips, tailored to the health/mobility needs of the elderly, and accompanied by an experienced and knowledgeable professional to various places within Todmorden, including for example the Health Champions in Todmorden Health Centre, the Aquagarden, the Town Hall, community centres and Incredible Edible Todmorden. The purpose of the day visits will be for the elderly people to see what is going on in their hometown, to be encouraged to form long-term relationships with organisations/events and places of their choice and thereby increase their community networks. There is a well-organised dementia cafe on a Saturday in Todmorden Health Centre. Day trips will be tailor-made for those suffering from dementia and will include a trip to the dementia cafe. Likewise, specific day trips will be organised for those who are wheelchair bound to accessible organisations/events and places that can improve their community networks. At all times, the family relations of the elderly people will be involved in the project.

We shall organise similar day trips for the elderly people in Hebden Bridge, visiting organisations/events and places within Hebden Bridge. Likewise for the elderly in Mytholmroyd.

Project 2: Age UK Calderdale

Travel companions Team (1 staff member)
2-4 Telephone volunteers
2-4 Travel companions / Integrated Service Staff from Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees
– A member of staff would develop and establish a new volunteering role within Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees to support older people to navigate transport issues of all varieties.
– This member of staff would be our transport champion at Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees.
– They would build links with organisations to ensure people could be signposted to these services quickly and effectively.
– This member of staff would also work alongside our outreach staff to help people across Calderdale who are experiencing isolation and loneliness to access services local to them with the support of volunteers and staff.
– They would be responsible for the budget
– Use funding to support people in greater need across Calderdale with additional needs/possibly staff to handhold/accompany to venues.
– Coordinate complex transport issues for older people.
– Match volunteers where appropriate
– Coordinate awareness sessions for transport providers around issues facing older people.
Volunteers would support older people
– The team would have a comprehensive record of all transport services available to people across Calderdale.

Project 3: Todmorden Health Champions 

The grant will be used to provide transport for patients who are taking part in Todmorden Health Centre Champion Activities to enable them to visit other venues for social, cultural and educational trips. Many of the current participants, are elderly, living within walking distance of the Health Centre, often in sheltered accommodation, on limited incomes, and with physical and mental health issues. Participants have little opportunity both physically and financially to visit other places, and are unable to benefit from the cultural and social opportunities on offer or to enjoy the freedom offered by parks and countryside sites. Being able to provide transport would greatly improve the health and wellbeing of the group as a whole and enable them to experience different communities, venues and environments. More specifically, the Art Group has in a short space of time attracted a regular group of over 30 participants with a range of health needs, including wheelchair users. The group has made great strides in developing individual skills and abilities, but these could be greatly enhanced by visiting attractions and venues which would inspire, engage and develop their talents. Most of the participants on the health walks have health issues which limit their ability to not only walk for pleasure but also to access places for general needs. By walking in a controlled group at a suitable pace participants are given confidence and encouragement to potentially be more independent in the future. There are also health benefits from the exercise which will reduce their dependence on the health centre. Walks currently start at the Health Centre and due to the terrain of the local area, are limited to a few easy flat routes, or routes with very slight inclines. The provision of transport would enable walkers to be taken to other venues with similar terrain but with a variety of different landscapes. This will greatly improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of participants. The development of activities, and therefore the satisfaction of the aims of the group has been limited by the lack of access to transport.

Theme 3: Network and Micro-commissioning 

Delivery Partners: North Halifax Partnership, Hebden Bridge Community Association, Halifax Opportunities Trust, and the Staying Well project. 

Project: Administration and delivery of a micro commissioning fund to develop local solutions to address loneliness and isolation in communities building community capacity through strengthening existing local provision.

The target beneficiaries of the fund will be older isolated or lonely individuals in Calderdale but funded activities will also include preventative interventions that will improve social opportunities and access to local activities for all adults aimed at improving well being because we know that people who have active social lives tend to be healthier, happier and often see health improvements; thereby reducing the risk of isolation at an older age.

It is proposed to link micro commissioning delivery with the existing delivery of the Staying Well project across 4 areas to ensure that target beneficiaries can be signposted to the most appropriate projects.

The delivery partners will work with communities to set up representative pannes in local areas who will be at the heart of the decision making about how the money should be spent.