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National campaigning body visits Frome’s Active and In Touch

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©David Chedgy LR Claire O’Shea from Campaign to End Loneliness_Lucia Chadwick from Active and in Touch and Tina Gaisford-Waller manager at Winstone’s Hunting Raven

The Campaign to End Loneliness has visited Frome to see how Active and In Touch, in partnership with Frome’s Hunting Raven Bookshop, is successfully working to combat loneliness in the town.  

Established in 2011, The Campaign to End Loneliness is a national campaigning body with expertise in the field of loneliness and connection.  The campaign’s belief is that people of all ages need connections that matter.  They share research, evidence and knowledge with thousands of other organisations and the public to make a difference to older people’s lives.

At the campaign’s fourth annual conference in London entitled “Be more us: belonging and community’, Active and In Touch met with Claire O’Shea of the campaign team who was impressed to hear about what was happening  in Frome, her home town, to tackle the ‘loneliness epidemic’. 

A recent initiative by Hunting Raven bookshop called ‘Books against loneliness’ also caught the campaign’s eye.  Frome’s longstanding independent bookshop, has been awarded £1,750 by Pan Macmillan to take referrals from Active and in Touch, and invite individuals (and their befriender should they wish) to come into the shop for coffee, cake and an informal chat about books with a member of the Hunting Raven team.

The aim of the project is to provide a listening ear, finding out about the individual and what’s important to them, and using the staff’s expert knowledge to make meaningful book recommendations. Following the session, the individual will be sent a thoughtfully selected book, together with a personally handwritten letter from the bookseller explaining the choice.

Tina Gaisford-Waller, Hunting Raven Bookshop manager said, “It was brilliant to meet Claire and hear about the work of the Campaign to End Loneliness. We definitely share the view that reading can really help people feel more connected and less lonely – and that bookshops can and should be hubs of social contact; the place to come for conversation, to exchange ideas, and share favourite reads.

“We’re so excited to be joining forces with Active and in Touch to give their members a warm and personal welcome into the bookshop and a chance to get to know us and what we do better. I’m really looking forward to working with them to offer their members friendly and fun ‘cake, chat and books’ sessions.

“I would urge anyone who is feeling disconnected or lonely, to seek out the support of Active and in Touch as there is so much they can do to help people making the vital connections that help keep loneliness at bay. And they may even refer you to Hunting Raven to enjoy a chat, some cake and the gift of a personally selected book.”

There are nine million lonely people in the UK and four million of them are older people. Many older people find constant loneliness hardest to overcome. They lack the friendship and support we all need.

Active and In Touch Frome is a group of local volunteers who are available to visit, talk with, and gently support people with getting involved in groups or activities.They say, “ Our volunteers visit, help and befriend people who have become isolated or out of touch with the community around them.  The people we support have become isolated and lonely through the circumstances life has thrown at them, maybe caring for a partner for years, moving to a new area, or just not feeling confident to try new things alone. 

“Recent research has shown that loneliness doesn’t just make people unhappy, but that it has an effect on mortality too.  Loneliness is also associated with poor mental health and, more surprisingly, with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and dementia.

“Once people become depressed and anxious they can find it increasingly hard to re-connect with society, becoming more and more isolated. Poverty and ill-health are key triggers for isolation but it can affect anyone, including those from affluent backgrounds.”

Lucia Chadwick, service manager said, “Active and In Touch volunteer befrienders spend time with those who wish to use our services, find out their needs and interests, and help them to find their own place in the community.  Over the last seven years many different people have been helped by the befrienders, in many different ways and for many different reasons. 

“Currently the project has around 70 active volunteers helping to support people in Frome and the surrounding villages.  Our youngest member is 23 and the oldest member is 99! Since the project first began, our wonderful volunteers have helped change the lives of well over 300 vulnerable, isolated, lonely people in our community.

In 2017, Active and In Touch Frome became a registered charity, No.1172434.  The charity receives support from Frome Town Council and they have a wonderful new office at Frome Town Hall, Christchurch St West, Frome, BA11 1EB.   

“Anyone who feels they might like to volunteer their time to help others or who may know someone who might benefit from this support can call Lucia Chadwick or Di Roberts on 07572 854029/ 07468859453, visit activeandintouch.org or send an email to enquiries@activeandintouch.org

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