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Reconnections: Tackling Loneliness in Worcestershire

Published on 01 April 2020 08:14 AM

After five years of tackling loneliness in Worcestershire, Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire's pilot Reconnections service has been completed.

We are thrilled to have been involved in this pioneering approach to supporting older adults and addressing loneliness in Worcestershire and are grateful to all our supporters.

During the pilot’s lifetime, we have received over 3000 referrals and engaged with over 1600 older people. On average, clients received 6 months of support from the service.

Client testimony speaks for itself: “I’ve come alive again! Now that I’m going out, I feel so happy that I’m looking to buy new clothes again. I haven’t seen my dentist for three years but I’m doing that as well.  Reconnections is the best thing that my doctor has ever prescribed for me…I went for my 81st MOT and it’s the best thing my doctor could have given me. You’re all marvellous!”

"Reconnections is bringing out the person I used to be. Their kindness, patience and enthusiasm for me personally has improved my lot so much. My sincerest thanks to you for the help you've given me" says another client. 

Overall 64% of clients felt less lonely and 18% felt no change. Using the UCLA scale for loneliness we set a 0.8 benchmark for reduction but positively, we saw an average drop point of -1.39 at six months and -1.28 a year after receiving the service - meaning a reduction in loneliness is sustained beyond the service delivery cycle.

Reconnections Caseworkers carried out a fundamental role within the project, with individual caseloads and essential knowledge of community assets within their geographical area, they ensured clients were fully supported across the whole county: “My Reconnections Officer has brought sunshine into my previously dull life. The Reconnections service has saved me from a very lonely and isolated life” says one client.

Caseworker John quickly realised his role was ‘more than just a job’ saying, “..many people we work with have been isolated for a long while and would probably just exist that way until they passed away, it brings home how important it is to talk about and then do something about loneliness. The importance of a cup of tea and a chat should never be underestimated, it’s something we can all do if we are prepared to stop and give a little of our time.”

Client feedback often showed gratitude to Caseworkers; “John’s kindness, patience and advice has opened a new world for me. My depression has lifted considerably thanks to John and my periods of despair are rapidly disappearing.”

For many clients, even leaving the house to go to the shop could be an overwhelming task. Through volunteer matches, Reconnections aimed to support clients to rebuild their own sustainable social connections: “The whole thing has been incredible – the friendship with my volunteer will continue.”

Our incredible group of volunteers were vital to the success of the project, at any one time the project had 140 active volunteers who encouraged clients to regain confidence and reconnect to life. Volunteers also felt great benefits from being involved in the project, 100% of the volunteers surveyed in 2019 and 2020 would recommend volunteering for Reconnections.

Of the number of volunteers surveyed in 2020, the average length of support they had already provided was 12.5 months and within that time 93% of volunteers surveyed felt fully supported by the team. When asked, ‘to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ the average score was 8.26 out of 10 (Reconnections volunteer surveys 2019 / 2020).

One volunteer recalled, “he [the client] soon became mobile when he felt able to and commented to me on one of the visits ‘because of you, I went out’, this made my day.” After just three weeks of visits, another volunteer said: “Already we are out and about you can see the changes in her confidence. My reward is to see that lovely smile when she opens the door to me, what more could you ask for?”

Sophie Pryce, Reconnections Manager, said “Reconnections has provided invaluable support to lonely and isolated people across Worcestershire. Our clients have been introduced to local activities, made new friends and encouraged to sustain their health and wellbeing going forward. I’m so proud to have been involved in this wonderful project and to have worked with a team and volunteers who are skilled, compassionate and determined to help older people to enjoy their lives and to feel valued and included as members of their communities.”

Led by Age UK H&W, Reconnections was delivered in partnership with several organisations: Social Finance, Onside Advocacy, Simply Limitless and Worcester Community Trust. Janette Powell, Director of Social Finance said; “It has been so exciting to watch Reconnections evolve and hear from participants as to how their lives have changed for the better. Not only have we seen new friendships form, but we have seen communities connect and start to work together to tackle loneliness. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of the Reconnections story.”

We are delighted that the Reconnections pilot was seen as successful and that our commissioners have contracted a new expanded service across the county. The new loneliness service for adults (18+) in Worcestershire will be delivered by Onside Advocacy, visit their website here.

There has also been interest further afield. The charity Independent Age is leading two pilot sites in London and Surrey, so the Reconnections family is growing! You can follow their journey here.