Compassionate Neighbours support socially isolated individuals amidst COVID-19

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Carolyn Johnson, Compassionate Neighbour, on the phone
Published on: Friday 03 Apr 2020 at 13:17

Our Compassionate Neighbours project has stepped up to support local people who are social isolated during ‘lockdown’

St Clare Hospice’s Compassionate Neighbours project, a volunteer-led programme to help tackle social isolation and loneliness throughout West Essex and East Hertfordshire, is diversifying amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the UK in ‘lockdown’ to help slow the spread of coronavirus, many citizens who would usually fill their social calendars with community groups and supportive meet-ups are now finding themselves lonely and isolated.

The Compassionate Neighbours project usually operates by ‘matching’ volunteers face to face with socially isolated members of the community, who then meet up for a cup of tea and a chat on a regular basis as part of a genuine, mutual friendship. However, our response to the current social distancing regulations includes harnessing the power of technology to continue offering this support digitally, through telephone and video calls.

“Lots of local people, many of whom may live alone and rely on family or friends’ visits, or organised, social meet-ups, are now facing a very quiet reality during the crisis we’re facing in the UK,” explains Stacey Towler, St Clare’s Compassionate Neighbours Manager who is leading the responsive changes to the project.

“Our project, as part of the wider Hospice, is usually focused towards supporting individuals living with a life-limiting illness, frailty or who are approaching the end of life. However, we’ve recognised a vital, pressing need in the current circumstances,” says Stacey. “Social isolation and loneliness is proven to be as bad for your health as the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Source: Holt-Lunstad, 2010)”. As a nation, and within our small pockets of local communities, we simply cannot afford to allow the very real health impacts of loneliness to pose a risk to people who are already vulnerable.”

“To put it plainly,” explains Stacey, “this kind of community effort is needed now, more than ever, to protect vulnerable people and in turn, help to defeat the virus. We’ve already touched the lives of more than 100 local people through the project, but we are doing our very best to reach more people, and to recruit more volunteers to help us.”

“We’re also working with other local organisations to strategically address this issue on a hyper-local and community level – so if we can’t directly be the organisation to help, we are working alongside individuals and signposting to other organisations who can help. So, if you need us, or can help us, please get in touch.”


Can you support us?

We are appealing for local people to come forward and volunteer with the Compassionate Neighbours project, to help support people ‘virtually’ over the phone or by video call, who are facing social isolation. Other practical support such as grocery shopping or picking up medical prescriptions for vulnerable people is also encouraged. Stacey’s training programme, which is usually delivered face-to-face to volunteers, has been adapted into a digital format. New volunteers are trained by Stacey in a series of online, interactive webinars – using the remote conferencing service, Zoom.

“The great thing about Compassionate Neighbours is that you are fully supported by a team of other Neighbours, and myself, within your role,” Stacey adds. “Our team of dedicated volunteers really ‘get’ what we’re trying to do here, and are committed to changing lives for the long-haul, not just during these very difficult times. So, if you do decide to join us, there’s always the opportunity to stay with us as a volunteer long-term, too!”


Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about St Clare Hospice’s Compassionate Neighbours project – whether you’d like to have a regular chat with a Neighbour, or know someone who would, or if you’d like to volunteer within the project – please get in touch with Stacey Towler on [email protected] or call 07986 971 860.


COVID-19 Update

For more information on St Clare Hospice’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can read our full statement at stclarehospice.org.uk/coronavirus

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