For one in ten older people across the county, loneliness is their daily reality. Over the last 18 months, many of us have experienced what lonely can feel like - but this is not something new for many older people and family carers in Suffolk.
It is estimated that there are over 88,000 unpaid family carers in Suffolk – that's 88,000 people who are committed to supporting a family member, every day, 365 days a year - often while putting their own needs and personal circumstances to one side. Over 47% of carers in Suffolk have said that “they do not have as much social contact as they would like”. And this was before COVID19. In addition, many family carers are older, supporting loved ones with enhanced health conditions such as dementia.
So, how do we make this better for all?
We have a plan...and we can't do this without YOUR HELP and the support of communities across Suffolk. We know that there are many fantastic communities that already do lots to support their more mature members, and we want everyone to be able to access great, meaningful and valuable support, that will reduce other health issues, improve social engagement and interaction, reduce hospital admissions and help people to live well, for longer in their community and remain independent at home.
We are committed to making a change. We want Suffolk to be a great place to grow old, to have a support system that people understand, know how to access and where to turn to when they face challenges or their circumstances change. We want people to feel safe and supported in their community and to help communities to support their own. Most of all, we want everyone in Suffolk to know where to turn, making that route of support (whenever this is needed), easy, kind and collaborative. No one should have to tell their story over and over again.
Why this is SO important
The greatest risk to health and well-being is loneliness and social isolation. All of the services that we deliver, directly aim to reduce this through working collaboratively with other county partners to ensure that people can and have access to support that is meaningful and trusted at the time when it is most needed.
In Summer 2020, the county's only dedicated charity for older people closed it's doors (Age UK Suffolk), right in the middle of a global pandemic - the need for the services this charity provided were desperate before COVID19, and we are only now starting to see the impact that the last 18 months has had on people. There is no COUNTYWIDE service that supports older people currently - and this is where BSEVC and Later Life Community comes in. Under the umbrella of an existing registered charity, BSEVC, who already has a proven track record of supporting people within the community with family carer support, community transport and mental health support groups, Later Life Community and Suffolk Carers Matter can develop much needed support and projects across Suffolk.
Combating loneliness and social isolation, is central to everything we do at BSEVC, whether it be through ensuring that people can access social activities through transport solutions, giving support to family carers who, through their role may feel significantly isolated and alone, or for older people in the county, who through health or age challenges may find it difficult to get out of the house, or reach services and activities in their local community or beyond. We believe that the best way to support an someone is by seeking hyper-local solutions to help them to live their daily life, whether that be by ensuring that they can get from A to B safely, door to door or reaching out to help access local support and services – at all times, maintaining independence and choice as much as possible. In most cases the most effective, long-term solutions and support will be hyper-local – in the community in which the individual feels safe and supported. This has never been more important than now, as we start to encourage people to re-engage after prolonged isolation.
It shouldn't be a "postcode lottery" of where you live - a level of countywide support should be available for ALL. This is not currently the case and has never been needed more.
And this is how your support can help....
Later Life Community Connect - a 7day a week, telephone support service, countywide, with a real person to talk to - about anything and everything. Tell us your story, and we will work with you to find out what's important to you, and how by working collaboratively with statutory and voluntary sector partners, we can make things better for you (if that's what you want).
Later Life Community Engage - a dedicated community engagement co-ordinator in each area of the county (currently being piloted in some areas of East Suffolk), embedding themselves within communities to find out what works, what doesn't and how to encourage individuals within said communities to engage. This includes regular forums (the voice of older people) and newsletters. Integral to this work is recruiting a network of Community Volunteer Champions who can be there if we cannot.
Wouldn't it be fantastic for every community across the county to have a Community Champion, a route into further information, advice and support if needed, or quite simply someone to meet with for a cuppa and a chat!
Later Life Community Digital - a digital inclusion programme, countywide, including Tea & Tech sessions for people aged 55+ to learn how digital can enhance or support their lives, and tablet training courses for 55+ to learn how to use tablet technology, and a telephone support line, to link people to volunteer digital champions in their community.
Later Life Carers - as part of all of this work, we are committed to reaching out to family carers - those of later years and those caring for people in later years, with specialist support, social engagement and activity groups and advice relevant to their needs.
This work is all about bringing people together - individuals, service users, the voluntary sector and statutory services so that people know the routes of support available to them at every step of the way. When times are tough, we should be making it easier to access what's needed...not more difficult.
Any donations raised, will go towards to ensuring that we are able to continue to build on what we have started, and making this a countywide service, available to all. Supporting us to ensure that we have the right people and volunteers to reach into communities, the right tools to use (always person centred and community focused) and the resources to be able to deliver this support in the way that each community needs. The back office support with telephone infrastructure and referral routes into the organisations that are needed - how to access carer assessments, what benefits you might be entitled to, is there a befriending scheme that you could access, the list is endless.
We are a small charity with a big heart and know that by working together, we can really make a difference to the lives and communities of people across Suffolk.
Thank you for reading (and hopefully making a donation) because "no one should have no one".