Northumberland’s hybrid approach to tackling loneliness and social isolation
Vanessa Easton, Assets and Community Engagement Manager at Northumberland Communities Together, discusses how Northumberland County Council are adapting their services in a hybrid way to meet the needs of the community.
Northumberland County Council’s response to the pandemic was to lean into our communities and collaborate with our partner agencies and the voluntary sector to support the residents of Northumberland. Northumberland Communities Together (NCT) was created in response to the pandemic.
Learning from the pandemic has ensured that we have listened more, looked at how we can collaborate and connect with communities and the voluntary sector, and brought quality to the work we offer to our residents. We have done this by building on a shared commitment, being innovative and having high aspirations for our communities, services, and organisations.
Over the last 18 months we know that some residents are now feeling fearful of coming out of their homes. Loneliness is not just in rural areas: we are now seeing an increase of this within our urban areas.
Examples of how we work in a hybrid way
Community Pop up Engagement events have helped NCT and our partners understand what life is like for our residents. By holding fun events in the places where residents live, we can understand the worries of our communities. The Community Hubs can support with the digital offer alongside our colleagues in libraries and Northumberland skills and VCS.
Our partners in primary care have told us they are receiving referrals from GPs for adults who have never been out of their homes for 2 years and are worried about COVID. NCT have responded to this by pulling together a pilot to look at our support planners going out to visit the individuals. The support planners build relationships, taking the individuals out to their local café or community hub where they can have a coffee and a chat, and meet our local covid support officer who can talk to them about covid and what the key messages are to relieve any concerns that they may have.
Development of our Community Hubs allow us to support communities in a bespoke way by bringing together local groups, organisations and partners including our libraries and customer services offering place-based support that is easy to access. One of our community hubs has a learning café so the local community have a place to meet and can support our learners at the same time.
The digital offer is still a difficult one as we are aware there are residents who do not want to engage in that way, which is why it is even more important to be able to offer the opportunity of face to face as well as digital offers in the hubs.
Why is this working?
The benefits of having NCT is that we are flexible to be able to have a quick response to residents needs and can flex our own often inflexible systems to help us to support residents where they need this.
NCT continue to build strong relationships with the community to be able to facilitate new ways of working together to benefit everyone in Northumberland.
For further information please contact NCT@Northumberland.gov.uk