The Honeycomb Group has been working with local people since 2013 on a range of projects designed to use their time, talents, energy and enthusiasm to support socially isolated and lonely older people in North Staffordshire and reduce loneliness.
We have been committed to sustaining and growing our volunteering projects regardless of external funding sources during a period of austerity.
These projects include supporting people living at home in the community, supporting people recently discharged from hospital and supporting people referred by their GP practice.
Through the Getting Connected project the organisation has expanded into new areas. The project will have recruited more than 70 Community Connectors (volunteers) and have supported over 200 older people by March 2021.
Community Connectors support older people for up to 6 months exploring a range of connecting opportunities:
- 1:1 Support: visits by Community Connector to develop relationship; understanding the person’s circumstances, needs, preferences and interests; confidence-building; increasing motivation, resilience and independence; providing information about local community activities/facilities. Supporting access to community activities/facilities e.g. social groups, activity groups, lunch clubs
- Meet-ups: supporting the set-up of small shared interest/friendship groups; kick-starting connections between older people living in the same locality. Meetings could take place in people’s own homes; community-based services (eg sheltered housing complexes), coffee shops, pubs etc
- Phone buddies: matching older people with other older people with similar interests/backgrounds to have regular telephone catch-ups
- Digital Socialising: with a pool of tech-packs; Tablet, Echo (devices that connect to voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant services) and mobile data, Community Connectors will offer demos showing how digital equipment can be used to keep in touch and build new networks etc and then support older people to take the next steps to get online eg IT training through established relationships with Barclay’s Digital Eagles and exploring charitable options to purchase equipment (eg. through AbilityNet)
Mill Rise coffee group
The Mill Rise coffee group is currently hosted by our volunteers, the volunteers originally supported people on a 1:1 basis in their own apartment, the group was formed to bring the individuals together and to include other residents that felt lonely and isolated.
The Mill Rise coffee group helps people to make new friends, meet up in a friendly and safe environment reducing social isolation and loneliness. The apartments are all in the same building, but some residents can spend all day without seeing anyone. We ask everyone what they want to chat about and they usually enjoy talking about the past, familiar places and people and also enjoy having a quiz each week and often carry on with their chat after we leave. The coffee group is open to other members of the local community who feel lonely and isolated.
Members of the Coffee group said “ it’s so enjoyable, something to look forward to and it’s lovely being with other people” “Much better than staying in my flat”, “I like the quizzes, they help to improve my memory” “When we arrive in the lounge, we say let’s go up the corner that’s where we have the coffee group”, “I look forward to Tuesdays, gives us a chance to socialise with people from outside as well as inside Mill Rise”
“We are delighted and excited about our Getting Connected project and the opportunities this project is creating for our volunteers and customers. Our previous experience and learning has focused largely on longer-term 1:1 volunteer support for lonely and socially isolated people.
“This project has enabled us to build upon that by exploring the effectiveness of shorter-term focused support aimed at creating sustainable longer-term community-based solutions. It has also allowed us to explore new alternatives and complementary approaches to helping older people build social connections.”
Julie Russell, Support & Wellbeing Manager, Staffordshire Housing Association