British Red Cross community connector Rosie Fewings explains how she has been supporting people who are lonely in Newcastle during the coronavirus crisis – and what others can do to help.
When people think about loneliness, I’m not sure Newcastle is the sort of place that springs to mind.
It’s a busy, bustling city filled with people who go out of their way to be friendly – a place where people take pride in sticking together through tough times and looking out for each other.
But loneliness is something that can affect anyone and that’s why I work in the city as a community connector, helping people who are lonely to reach out and make connections – with family, friends and their wider community.
In normal circumstances, this would involve visiting people at home, taking them to a local club and introducing them to activities.
It’s been very different since Covid-19 struck.
Find new ways to support people
Much of the support I’ve been giving has been over the phone and it has been crucial for those who are most vulnerable and have been struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
A chat, an opportunity to get things off their chests, a chance to laugh and cry and talk through their anxieties – I wouldn’t like to imagine how lonely and cut off the people I support would feel without that contact.
The British Red Cross has had to adapt to the pandemic and, thanks to funding from the DCMS, we’ve been able to move fast and work with people to help get them online.
Our Tackling Loneliness Digitally programme helps people who can’t afford to get online – or don’t have the skills or confidence – to use digital technology to say in touch with those they value most.
Our team of young digital volunteers aged between 16 and 25 have been teaching people how to use tools like Zoom, email and instant messenger and, for those who already have access to the internet, we’ve pulled together a brilliant package of resources.
How you can help
Everyone can help those who may be feeling lonely this winter, so please reach out – for help if you need it yourself or to offer support to others.
There’s a couple of easy things you can do to help those who tell you they are lonely – they can call the British Red Cross coronavirus support line on 0808 196 3651 and tell people about our online resources.
They can be found at www.redcross.org.uk/loneliness-resources and are free for everyone to use.
This is a hugely challenging time for everyone but, for some, it’s hard to look ahead with hope.
We need to be there for them even when we can’t be there with them.