Social Isolation Forum

Current stage: Awarded

Collaborators

  • Plymouth Befriending Communities Consortium
  • Honicknowle Comnet
  • Onward House
  • Thorn Park Pharmacy Trust
  • Beacon Park Social Prescribing
  • Colebrook South West

Collective’s aims and ideas

The issues of social isolation and loneliness have become an increasingly relevant factor in society and local communities. Though these issues have very different definitions they both have an important impact on people's mental and physical health and their quality of life.
The interplay of social and financial circumstances, health status, housing, local environment, transport, internet age, local infrastructure and education all play a part in isolating differing groups of people.
The lack of opportunity to mix socially takes many forms from the lack of physical places and buildings through a lack of appropriate activities, groups and social gatherings to a lack of support and transport to enable access to social experiences, creating an increasing inequalities – in health, social standing, financial and economic status and an awareness of living in the edge of society.
The main aims of the Forum are to raise awareness of social isolation and loneliness and to embed these issues into the strategic framework of the city to prevent the negative aspects of isolation and deliver a city that promotes a friendly inclusive environment. There is a need for all organisations in the statutory, community and voluntary and private sectors to work proactively to initiate early preventative input rather than use resources to provide a reactionary approach to the problems of social isolation and loneliness.
1) To identify the main organisations for which social isolation is a major factor in provision of services and what is available ;thus identifying gaps in provision. To look at specific factors which cause boundaries that prevent people accessing what support is presently available.
2) Identify areas in Plymouth that lack social infra-structure and opportunities for social contact.
3) Improve identification and access to the socially isolated who fall through the net. To collaborate with people who work closely within local communities and access individuals in their homes.
4). Campaign for these issues to play a major part in planning future services and community provision. To identify venues and green spaces that are currently underused that could be used for community activities and campaign to reduce the obstacles which restrict groups organising community events.
The issues of social isolation and loneliness cannot be tackled by any organisation, policy, action plan etc. The full understanding of these issues must become embedded in the way we ALL work, influencing and informing the planning of building projects and city construction, transport facilities, use of our environment, policy development and the co-ordination of all sector organisations across Plymouth.
As A Forum we have a range of grass-root experiences of the devastating effect of isolation and loneliness; we need to ensure this experience, local knowledge and our empathy is heard in the right places and influences strategic decision-making bodies.
We will do this by various means;
1) regular meetings of the Forum
2) Working sub-groups formed from the Forum to carry out specific tasks, actions and research
3) Close coordinated working with strategic bodies such as Loneliness Action Group headed by councilor Kate Taylor and the Health and Well-being Board
4) Promotion of the Forum and organisation of local community and city wide events.
5) City conference;
BRINGING PLYMOUTH TOGETHER
SOLUTIONS TO ISOLATION AND LONELINESS
Aims of Conference; 1) Raise awareness and reduce stima and stereotypes
2) Promote what is available and look at how we can remove barriers to accessing support
3) Issues to become part of the culture when planning the city's services, environment and policy making.
4) Bring all organisations , bodies and public together to contribute to the search for solutions

How will they work together to achieve this?

The Forum consists of members of the community and voluntary sector, representatives from Plymouth City Council and Public Healthy and staff from social prescribing teams and well-being hubs. The Forum has been meeting regularly since October 2019 and originated from a shared concern about the impact that social isolation and loneliness was having on our clients, the referrals we receive, the communities we deal with and the services we offer as different organisations. We realised that these issues went much further than the remit of our specific organisations and that we need to have an impact at a strategic and city wide level and to look at how isolation and loneliness can be reduced within the city.
At present the lead organsiation of the Forum is Plymouth Communities Befriending Consortium, who provide organisational, administrative and developmental support; the goal is to progress the Forum into a legal body of its own with a bank account and administrative facilities.
We have learnt a great deal from our initial gatherings; about each others organisations, their roles, the specific work that is carried out and the varying concerns that we all have around the impact of social isolation and loneliness. There has also been extremely useful exchanges of information, knowledge and experiences that have benefited us all. WHIlST SOME OF THE MEMBERS have met previously the formation of this group has introduced people from organisations not known to each other which has increased our individual learning curves and enabled us to appreciate different perspectives and experiences.
We meet as a Forum on a regular basis as well as arranging additional meetings that are arranged to investigate specific issues i.e. meeting with councilor Kate Taylor. We recognise that the Forum is a growing entity and that in order to work together effectively and ensure development and successfuil outcoimes for the Forum we need to;
1) Explore how we will communicate effectively and efficiently between members of the Forum, the sub-groups created by the Forum, between other organisations, community groups, individuals, statutory authorities and the private sector.
2) Constantly update and assess who needs to be involved in the Forum, what part they will play, what format will be most effective to ensure the best way for everyone to contribute towards the Forum.
3) Be flexible in how and when we meet and how members can have their say
4) Regular evaluation of the work and impact of the Forum.
The range of organisations involved bring many skills and strengths to the Forum from a grass root to a strategic level. Many members have played different roles within the community and voluntary sector and have planned, designed, run and evaluated a variety of projects across the communities of Plymouth and organised large city wide events.. The representatives of Plymouth City Council and Public Health give us the strategic input and knowledge that is fundamental to the success of the Forum.

The Forum is now participating in the City Council’s Loneliness Action Group and members of the Forum will be participating in the working groups that Councillor Kate Taylor is setting up. Councillor Taylor attended the Forum’s last meeting and is keen to engage with us.

The aims of the Forum are extensive and overwhelming but there are some positive steps that can be made quite simply. I attended a matinee performance at Theatre Royal; the play was centred around loneliness and isolation. Many attended the performance on their own but left immediately …would a warmer environment and maybe the inclusion of a facilitator ( story teller ) encourage people to stay and explore the themes

During the first round, POP+ members were asked to advise you. Tell us what happened. What are your reflections? Have you gained new insight? New partners?

The Forum was delighted to receive support and help from the POP panel.
Chris; Willing to help to involve faith input and pass on experiences from Torbay and assist in process of moving the Forum into a legal structure.
Bronwen; Interests in the issue of disability and emphasising the need to move more into inclusive involvement of people into inclusive involvement of people into groups rather than having specific groups for certain disabled. She has extensive skills and experience that she is happy to share with us as well as useful contacts in the art arena.Will also share research she has from ‘ Psychologists for Change ‘.
Caroline to offer support via her projects – I know Caroline from her work with the Velvet Cinema
It was a helpful, fulfilling experience to discuss the funding bid with a panel who’s main agenda was to offer support and practical help. All Forum members have a wide range of experiences regarding funding applications and the greatly differing ways in which applications are handled and the support available. Often the only support is written guidelines; I personally find some funders not keen to discuss projects in any sort of detail, referring to the guidelines and this is normally fine if your project fits in the box but can be an issue if you are looking for funding for a project that is a little different from the criteria. It is often very difficult to transfer and communicate fully the passion that organisations have for a project in the set restrictive questions with a limitation on number of words written.
The session gave us a lot to reflect on and we will be grateful for ongoing support. Thank you to all who took the time and trouble to attend our feedback session.