As Community Connections has developed over the past five years, we’ve realised addressing social isolation can look very different for different people’s needs. When we describe ourselves as a project addressing social isolation, people may imagine a more limited project, say a service that only connects to befrienders. In reality, Community Facilitators and Community Development Workers do so much more to build a stronger community support for vulnerable or isolated adults.
Community Facilitators work one-to-one with vulnerable adults in Lewisham to access community groups and services. Clients are referred to Community Connections in a number of ways, including GPs, social care services, community groups and self-referrals.
We surveyed 421 clients from April to September 2017, and found the following:
61% of clients had multiple health issues
36% of clients were experiencing mental health difficulties
29% of clients had a long-term health condition
58% of clients had mobility impairments or limitations
In terms of the work Community Facilitators did with clients, 94% requested support accessing social groups, which covers a broad array of activities and supports for the general population as well as specific groups (eg LGBT, older people). This was the most common way Facilitators addressed social isolation.
18% of clients requested befriending and 24% needed accessible transportation to access the community. These are two of the most over-subscribed services across the borough. 16% wanted help in their home, such as domestic help or a Social Care assessment of their house, and 27% needed further practical support in their daily lives. 22% of clients were linked to health services such as drug/ alcohol support, counselling or hand/ foot care. 21% of clients were in need of economic support services, such as food banks or debt advice.
World Mental Health Day is an annual day of recognition for mental health issues and the people whose lives are impacted by them. This year Trevor, a Community Development Worker, set about arranging a conference bringing together statutory mental health services, community sector support, and local residents to celebrate mental health services around the borough and to recognise the work done by people with mental health issues to manage their health.
The event was supported by Cllr Jonathan Slater and organised by partners of Lewisham Mental Health Connection including: Community Connections, Hexagon, Apax, QVT, Metropolitan Police, Bromley and Lewisham Mind, Lewisham Council, Certitude and the Lewisham Pensioners Forum.
Trevor brought together information stalls and workshops on topics ranging from Employment, Laughter Yoga, Mindfulness, Art Therapy and Self-Management. There were over 100 people in attendance, and the day was a great success for all!
Jay is a 38 year-old man who developed epilepsy as an adult. He has a hard time controlling his seizures, and as a result he was afraid to leave his house for fear of having a seizure and not having help available.
A Community Facilitator (CF) met with Jay in his home to talk about his situation – his likes and dislikes, his interests and what holds him back from engaging in community life.
Jay said that he would like to get back into work again, but the first step for him would be to build confidence in leaving the house. The CF helped Jay to get an epilepsy card through Epilepsy Action, which Jay can carry in case someone finds him having a seizure.
The CF also suggested a nearby befriending group and helped Jay work out a safety plan with them: he will call the group to let them know he is coming, and if he does not arrive within an hour they group knows to notify the authorities that he has had difficulty along the way.
Having a safety plan helped Jay feel more confident in leaving the house. He asked about community gardening groups, and is now talking to Voluntary Services Lewisham about volunteering with them as well. Often the first step is the hardest, as Jay found.
“David is Homosexual” is a film shot in Lewisham and Greenwich over 40 years ago by the local branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). It will be shown at the Lewisham ArtsCafé in Manor Park at 6.00pm on Sunday 30 July.
“David Is Homosexual” tells the story of one young man’s coming out to his family, friends and workmates at a time when homophobia was still rife. All those involved in making the film were members of the Lewisham Branch of CHE. The aim was to encourage local lesbian and gay people of all ages to join the group and to lose the sense of isolation and fear which so many felt at that time.
For over 30 years the film was preserved by its cameraman, David Belton, and following a revival of interest it is now in the British Film Institute archive. The film includes footage of the 1976 London Gay Pride March and might be a unique record of that event.
The film was directed by Wilfred Avery, an artist who had a retrospective exhibition at the Woodlands Gallery Greenwich the year after the film was made and died in 2016 aged 90. His partner of 50 years, Ray Crossley, who survives him, was one of the group members appearing in the film. Peter Scott-Presland, the author of “Amiable Warriors”, the official history of CHE, has described the film as ‘brave and touching’ and its return to Lewisham after so many years and in the different social attitudes it helped to achieve
will be an historic event.
Anyone involved in making the film is asked to contact David.email@example.com
I’ve been volunteering with Community Connections for half a year now. I’m enjoying it, because it breaks up my week and gets me away from my desk job. It feels good to give a little bit of my time and attention to somebody who really appreciates it – it may be a small thing, but it can make a big difference.
I enjoy meeting people, and through volunteering I have got to know some lovely and inspiring people I would otherwise not have met. I love a good conversation, and I’ve had so many interesting and entertaining conversations with the people I met.
I’m used to working in a target-driven job. It feels good to balance that and support someone, just being there for them, from one person to another.
The Community Connections team look after us volunteers and are there to guide and advise, which is really helpful.
Our Connectors provide vital support to vulnerable people by link them to local social activities and support services. We match you based on your availability and location and provide you with an appointment time. Your role will be to:
Support the person to achieve their goals which might mean attending a new club with them for the first time to build confidence
Provide client updates to Community Facilitators regularly
Work with the support of the office team to identify suitable services and spend time talking through these with the client
Complete basic templates and paperwork to record the work you have carried out
Attending community events to raise the profile of Community Connections (optional)
Skills and Qualifications needed
Enthusiasm and a commitment to supporting vulnerable adults are essential. We will provide you with the training that you need though knowledge of the borough of Lewisham would be a bonus. You will need to have excellent English language skills and listening skills, additional language skills will be most welcome.
We will provide you with person centred planning training in addition to our volunteer induction and provide a forum events to meet with other volunteers and the Volunteer Coordinator to share learning.
If you would like to volunteer with us then contact us on: 0208 314 3244
When was the last time you learned something new? Today we are going to have a quick look about what it means to learn, how it can contribute to wellbeing, and how you might be able to learn something new in Lewisham.
In some ways we are constantly learning. What happens when you watch or listen to a news programme, for example, usually involves a degree of learning as you take in new information relating to the world and current events. But when we talk about learning as a way to wellbeing, we are talking about something a bit more than that. Learning can impact upon wellbeing when it really changes us, how we think of ourselves or lifts our confidence. It might be learning a new skill like how to knit or how to play a new musical instrument or it might be a language.
Most importantly, learning doesn’t have to take place in a traditional learning environment like a school or college. In Lewisham there are a number of voluntary groups and clubs where you can go to learn new skills. Never ridden a bike before? Wheels for Wellbeing still run their sessions on a Tuesday from 12 until 1pm! Want to learn to sew? Why not try ‘Sew You Need to Need to Get Out More’ at Besson Street Community Garden on Wednesday afternoons. The University if the Third Age offers a really broad variety of learning opportunities in the borough; just take a look at their timetable!
So maybe 2015 is the year you finally start having those French lessons, or fix up that rusty old bike that is sitting in your garage! Whatever it is you want to do, learning is sure to make you feel good!
This is the third in our seRies of posts about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Did you notice the deliberate mistake in the first sentence? If you did then well done! If not, go back and have another look and this time be extra careful to Take notice. OK, this is a silly example, and spotting a capital R in the wrong place is not likely to improve your wellbeing significantly. But taking notice is really all about being present in the moment and not worrying too much about what else is going on that day or that week. It is about freeing yourself, even if just momentarily, from the multiple distractions that seem to be everywhere now days. From the phone buzzing in your pocket to adverts that scream out from TV sets sometimes it feels like we are being permanently bombarded with so much information that it might be easy to forget the simple pleasures that life brings.
Take a moment to look around you and really take in your environment, try to pick out something you’ve not noticed before and think about it for a few seconds. Take some deep breaths, feel yourself grounded in your surroundings. Feels good doesn’t it?
It is important to take notice, to be mindful, in the moment and meditate occasionally. Taking time like this will help to put things in perspective, come up with new solutions to the tasks that life throws at us, and to de-stress. Why not take an hour or two to go on a healthy walk? or take in some culture at the Horniman Museum? I’ll bet you will feel better for it! If you’d like some more ideas, get in touch!