Thursday, 12 May 2022

Addressing loneliness in Powys: Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Earlier this week, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, we posted about a number of new community initiatives which have recently been set up in Powys to address loneliness and isolation following the launch of the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2022 - 24.

Today we look at two more amazing projects which have both been running for several years now in Powys to support people to access services that are "right for them, which improve their independence and help maintain social networks". So often this means people have the chance to be out and about meeting others, making new friendships and revitalising old ones.

Before we dive into the detail, just a reminder about The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000. The Foundation explains why Loneliness is this year's chosen theme:

"The Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The Foundation has been tracking loneliness levels in the UK during the pandemic and found the experience has been much higher with devastating impact. Loneliness has been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress, resulting from people’s sense of isolation and reduced ability to connect with others. Further polling also found that loneliness was one of the leading issues that the public felt needed to be addressed."

So in this, the second of our MHAW 2022 week blog posts, we focus on two key services provided by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, both of which contribute hugely to addressing the issues of isolation and / or loneliness in the county. These services have played a vital role in supporting people throughout Powys who have struggled through the past two years of Covid lockdowns and beyond.

They are the Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services.

Community Connector Claire Powell (bottom row, 2nd L)
& partners on the Newtown locality network

Sharon Healey, Senior Officer Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services at PAVO, tells us more about the work of these two invaluable services, and the impact their work is having on individuals in the county who may be living with challenging mental and / or physical health conditions whilst at the same time also struggling to overcome loneliness and / or isolation.

Community Connectors Service

The Community Connector Service operates across Powys, with 13 Community Connectors based in Localities taking referrals for a wide range of issues – community activities, transport, benefits, housing, health conditions, wellbeing, loneliness and much more.

The Community Connectors can support clients to access the right local support and information. The service helps people in Powys, aged 18 years+ and their families or Carers, to access community level services and activities that will help them maintain independent lives and which will help prevent their circumstances deteriorating to a point where they might need higher level health or social care services.

Community Connectors can also support people when they return home from hospital by helping other voluntary sector services, such as the Red Cross, identify local services that may be needed. This could include occupational therapy, home adaptations, community transport, specific health related issues including dementia, medication/shopping collection or sourcing cleaning and overcoming loneliness and isolation.

During 2021/22 the top presenting issues into the CC service have been Social Isolation and Loneliness. We have supported over 510 individuals presenting with this issue, finding support and signposting them to befriending services, local groups of interest, looking at individuals' circle of support, online social groups, local social groups, etc.

Community Connector Lynda Rogers (far right) supporting Powys Pride


I don't know how I would have got through the last few months without the CCs and everything they had helped find out, put in place and have advised me on.

G is an 80 year old man who by his own admission used to be a workaholic, spending as much time as he could on his farm in the work he loved. However as he got older this became physically more difficult and after he and his son employed a farm worker to help them out with the business he found he spent most days at home, alone. He hadn’t developed any interests due to his work commitments and felt anxious to leave the house.

G was being supported by farming charities Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. The volunteer with the DPJ Foundation had been supporting G for 6 weeks and their support was coming to an end but G felt that he had enjoyed the volunteer’s visits so much he would like something similar to continue. He was referred into the Community Connectors' Service.

Community Connectors spreading the word out in the local community

His local Connector talked to him about befriending. He liked the sound of this and would like face to face visits. He said that with the support of a volunteer, who he had learned to trust, he would consider going out to meet other people at local group activities.

The Connector contacted the main Befriending providers and found that Age Cymru Powys had a volunteer who might be suitable for G. With G’s consent, he was referred into the Community Helpers’ scheme at Age Cymru Powys and was matched with a local male volunteer later that afternoon. Age Cymru Powys will also be offering him their Mamwlad support.

Powys Befriending Service

PBS - Powys Befriending Service is a project run by PAVO - Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. The service supports people over the age of 50 living in Powys, to help maintain their independence, build confidence, develop their social network and reconnect with activities in the community or with a friendly cuppa and chat in their own home. The service supports people who have become lonely or socially isolated because of ill health, bereavement, disability, life changes or social disadvantage by arranging a supportive, reliable relationship with a Powys Befriender.

The service offers telephone befriending, 1:1 befriending in the client's own home or in the community, digital online groups and befriending groups in communities and letter or email befriending. Befriending is a process of bringing two or more people together with the aim of establishing an informal social arrangement. Befriending support can lower rates of depression, improve social skills, reduce isolation, improve self-management, improve self-esteem and confidence, reduce vulnerability and risk of abuse, build a sense of purpose and see a reduce in use of emergency services.

Sharon Healey (top right), Senior Officer Community Connectors & Powys Befriending Services
at PAVO joins a Powys Befriending board games session

Powys Befrienders supports clients to access social, leisure, educational or other needs and promotes personal choice, increased self-respect, supporting existing social skills and development of new opportunities. They can visit the client in their own homes or in the community to provide companionship and support. Telephone befrienders have light, meaningful conversations with their client, providing distraction from negative situations or circumstances.

As of the end of March 2022 the service supports over 420 clients through the activities offered. Due to the Covid pandemic the service had to amend its offers due to clients isolating and 
therefore with the huge increase in demand for support telephone and online support was developed.

Powys Befriending Service is part of a much wider team within PAVO and the wider Third Sector and any additional support required by clients can be sourced via the PAVO Community Connector Service.

Natalie Philbin-Carr (2nd from left), PBS Outreach Officer North Powys
 at a Powys Befriending session lunch


Joyce Bettley is enjoying her calls immensely. "I look forward to the calls so much and my Volunteer ** is smashing. We talk about food, recipes, cooking, jam and everything else. It's absolutely lovely. I was reluctant at first but Natalie persuaded me to give it a try and it's the best thing I've done!”

There is no question that the Befriending Service has been a lifeline for me at a difficult time. I can recommend it to anybody.

Coffee & Chat Group, Newtown

Jenny Jones - “It was lovely, just to get out and meet people and so spacious, good coffee too!”

A client reported how pleased she is with her Telephone Befriender and that ‘he has made the world of difference to me’. She explained that she really looks forward to his calls and feels pleased that she has been able to help her Volunteer overcome his initial shyness and lack of confidence when talking over the telephone. She said that she is a natural conversationalist and their relationship has become mutually beneficial.

A PBS social event

And finally

If you know anyone struggling with loneliness in Powys, then let them know about services and projects that are available in the county to provide support. 

Community Connectors - contact details

Call our Duty Officer, Community Connector Service on 01597 828649 10am - 4pm Monday to Friday or email 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.

Powys Befrienders' Service - contact details

Call 01597 822191 for an informal chat or email 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment