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Alleviating loneliness in south east London

Comms Officer Henry Lockyer spoke with Ross Lambdon, Lambeth Together, to learn how Lambeth Together is tackling loneliness in south east London.

Mental Health Awareness Week, 9-15 May 2022, raised awareness of loneliness and its impact on our mental health. One in four adults feel lonely some or all the time and this can have significant knock-on effects on our mental and physical health. COVID-19 has only made this problem worse, with 41% of UK adults feeling lonelier during lockdown and many losing social confidence.HBD (1)

To help address these issues in local communities across south east London, Lambeth Together’s Neighbourhood and Wellbeing Alliance (NWDA), supported by King’s Health Partners and other organisations, has been working with the Hills, Brooks & Dales Primary Care Network (PCN) - based across Herne Hill, Tulse Hill and Knights Hill - on a mental health promotion and prevention project to support local residents to socialise and interact with others, and regain confidence to step back out into society after lockdowns.*

Led by Ruth, Social Prescribing Link Worker for the PCN, local organisations were invited to outline any activities or services they would like to provide to residents over three months. Between December 2021 – March 2022, four local organisations received funding to deliver a series of activities in local community buildings for local people:

  1. ‘Tea and Harmony’ – singing and wellness. Tea, coffee, biscuits and professional singing coaching was served up every other week at the West Norwood Old Library. Residents could bring friends, family members or carers along to enjoy a sociable afternoon of singing to improve their confidence and wellbeing.
  2. Holistic WellWomen – arts and crafts. Growing in popularity week by week at various community halls, this workshop allowed local residents to socialise, laugh and learn how to make a variety of arts & crafts including Christmas decorations, hand creams and African print notebooks.
  3. Rose Café – led by Home Instead. The Rose Café is a bi-weekly café at West Norwood Library open to all local residents. There are various activities put on at each café including bingo, quizzes and games.
  4. Health & Wellbeing events – led by Carers 4 Carers. Carers 4 Carers held three health and wellbeing events at community buildings across the local areas of West Norwood and Herne Hill. Lambeth’s Health and Wellbeing bus, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, massages, body mass index and blood pressure checks were all available for local residents. Across the three events over 150 local people attended.

Funding was also provided to the organisations for additional training and development for their staff and volunteers to further support the local residents within this project. Training included food safety, mental health awareness and social prescribing awareness.Happy Drums1

Residents who attended any of the activities were given a wellness scale to answer to determine and detail if they required any further, personalised support from Ruth which some residents are now receiving. [Pictured: Happy Drums workshop] 

Feedback from the organisations and local residents was extremely positive and we are now exploring how to extend the project through the summer months to continue expanding community development in the local area led by Ruth – she has shared some of the positive feedback she received below:

I met a passerby whilst I was helping to clean the flowerbeds with GoodGym volunteers. She stopped to ask me what was going on inside, then said how wonderful it is to see the community getting together and that she needed to find things for herself to do now her child was grown up. I offered to introduce her to the crafting facilitator Betty. I took her inside and introduced her and then it turned out that she knew one of the crafting table volunteers from elsewhere! This lady then stayed for another 2 hours taking part in the singing, exercise and street dance workshops. When I spoke to her again just before the end of the day she said 'I am so glad I stopped to speak to you. I've had a great time.'

Loneliness project logoIn January, Ruth organised a community event at the Dexter’s Adventure Playground, Brixton, with the BIGKID Foundation. This event was aligned to Blue Monday (dubbed the most depressing day of the year) and a number of local organisations and services held stalls to provide information of their activities and programmes for local families. Activities including dancing and refreshments were also available for residents to enjoy.

Helen, Development Director, BIGKID Foundation, commented on the feedback from residents after reopening Dexters Adventure Playground:

I had so many members of the community tell me how wonderful it was to see the site open and active again. They wanted to know when it would next be open and when I told them about all the sessions BIGKID was running, they were really pleased to know that they could bring their children back next Saturday to play on the adventure playground or during the week to participate in the BIGKID Youth Club. One person told me that the day had really lifted their spirits that they had felt really down about going back to work after Christmas and with the cold weather it had been a challenge to find fun things to do with the children. She said her husband had also been really down and would usually have left by now but they had stayed for three hours already and he still was happy participating in the activities and watching their kids enjoy the play sessions. She was really grateful.

Are you suffering from loneliness? Find helpful advice, support and information here.

*The NWDA is supported by multiple organisations, including King’s Health Partners and its partner trusts, Public Health England, Lambeth Council, South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, AgeUK Lambeth, Healthwatch Lambeth, and Lambeth GP Federation. Find out more here.