New lifeline for elderly County Durham residents
Published by Craig Downs for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
From l-r: Potential volunterers Hazel Emberson, Vinnie Johnson, Vera Knevit, Anne Lynch and Jack Emberson from Stanley Court in Derwentside pictured with Derwentside Homes’ Director of Resources Keith Tallintire
Help, support and a listening ear will soon be available to elderly people in County Durham, thanks to a new Big Lottery Fund award scheme.
The Silver Knowledge project will offer a number of services to vulnerable older people through a telephone befriending scheme, as well as providing financial advice and help with tasks such as gardening and shopping.
The project, which has been awarded £99,475 of funding from The Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund, is led by Derwentside Homes and includes partners Durham County Council, Durham City Homes, Durham Council for Voluntary Service, the Mid Durham Area Action Partnership and NHS County Durham and Darlington.
Derwentside Homes’ Director of Resources Keith Tallintire said: “We know from research carried out by the local Area Action Partnership that there are a large number of elderly people in County Durham suffering from isolation and loneliness.
”By working with other local organisations we can offer a whole range of services designed to improve life for elderly people in our communities.
“We are proud to be the first housing association in the North East and one of two nationally to be awarded funding through the Silver Dreams Fund and believe this money is going to make a huge difference to the lives of older residents.”
Before applying for the funding, staff and volunteers from Derwentside Homes and Durham City Homes spoke to more than 200 tenants over the age of 60 to determine if there was a demand for such a service.
Examples of the people they spoke to include an elderly man who had become isolated after his wife died and he sold his car following an accident.
Through the Silver Knowledge project, the man will be referred to Social Services, which will organise for support to be provided with his shopping and cleaning.
Another example was a woman who was about to go into hospital for an operation. She had no family in the area and was worried about what would happen when she returned home.
Through Silver Knowledge, residents in this situation will be contacted several times a week to alleviate the problem identified and make sure they are coping.
During a third call, a gentleman admitted he was suffering from loneliness, which resulted in the operator providing him with details of local coffee mornings and other social activities.
All three, along with many others spoken to, said they would use a telephone befriending service such as Silver Knowledge.
It is planned that the telephone befriending service will be just the start of the scheme, with help also offered in areas such as health, finance and odd jobs in the future.
A team of volunteers will be recruited to operate the telephone service, a task which will be carried out by the Durham Council for Voluntary Services.
The volunteers will be trained to recognise issues and promote early intervention and many will be elderly themselves, meaning they will be more aware of the issues being faced by service users.
Currently more than 33,000 people living in the Derwentside area of County Durham are of retirement age – approximately 22% of the area’s population.
During a recent survey, 25% of elderly people questioned said they had experienced loneliness, with more than 70% of those said they would be interested in using a local telephone befriending scheme.
The Silver Knowledge scheme will begin in September and will operate as an 18-month pilot. A team led by Professor Mima Cattan from the School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria University, will evaluate the project to assess the project’s impact on older people in terms of their wellbeing and social isolation. The project will also be evaluated from the point of view of the volunteers to assess their self-esteem and knowledge as well as the service providers in terms of their attitudes to partnerships.
Any older persons living in North West Durham who may be interested in volunteering to help the project, or individuals who feel that they may benefit from the telephone befriending scheme, can obtain more information from Angela Hodgson by calling 0800 093 0092.