Helayna Jenkins, Principal Loneliness Champion at London Borough of Bromley, explains how and why they are keeping loneliness high on the agenda.
Tackling loneliness in Bromley
Tackling Loneliness in the London Borough of Bromley has been high on the agenda since 2019. The borough started its conversation about loneliness and social isolation at a summit in 2019 which aimed to raise awareness amongst delegates from statutory, voluntary and provider sectors and gain a greater understanding of those at risk of experiencing loneliness.
The impact of COVID-19 meant many voluntary and community organisations had to change the way in which they delivered their services across the borough. During the pandemic volunteers, living throughout the borough, helped those who were vulnerable and shielding with support including making regular telephone calls and providing support.
In 2021 the local authority held a series of workshops with key organisations and community leaders within the borough to discuss those at risk of experiencing loneliness, existing services to support these groups and what actions were needed to tackle loneliness going forward. One of the key messages was that Bromley has many activities, groups, and volunteers, but the community needs a place to find all of these exciting opportunities in one place.
Highlights from the first year of implementing a loneliness strategy
Learning from the workshops, the Tackling Loneliness Strategy 2022 – 2026 was developed. The Leader of the Council and Senior Leadership Team felt so strongly about this initiative that they commissioned the role of Principal Loneliness Champion in late 2022 to implement the strategy across the borough for people of all ages, stages of life and backgrounds.
Since the strategy went live, these are a number of notable projects and initiatives we have implemented across the borough:
- Bringing together a recognised source of information containing activities and groups in the borough that can help mitigate loneliness. An e-directory now boasts over 1,000 activities, used both by residents and front-line professionals, such as social-prescribers, as a route into local activities which will increase their social interaction.
- Delivery of a frontline staff training programme to increase awareness of loneliness, recognise those at risk of experiencing loneliness, have the tools to start up a conversation with individuals about it and signpost residents to support services.
- Delivering an on-going communications campaign with partners via social media as well as posters and leaflets to continue to raise awareness of loneliness and signpost residents to support and activities. The campaign also promotes the role of volunteering in mitigating loneliness.
- Residents in Bromley living with a disability told us that they needed more information about travelling across the borough to stay connected with others. We produced a Guide to Accessible Transport to support residents to travel more easily and safely.
- A creative, intergenerational project was started through a Christmas Card Scheme which saw 900 cards produced by Bromley primary and secondary schools, Children, and Family Centres and after school clubs. These were distributed to care homes, extra care housing schemes, those receiving domiciliary care, care leavers, a local hospice and hospital to let those receiving cards know they were remembered at a potentially lonely time of year.
- Working with Bromley libraries to assist the community in bringing people together in a wide range of classes, activities, and groups both face to face and online. These include innovative, interactive sessions promoting exercise as well as activities for people with dementia.
- Lottery funded Prime8 programme from Mytime Active ran from May to October 2022 offering older people who were lonely 8-week free access to Primetime classes, including classes for those impacted by reduced mobility during the pandemic. Many of those attending valued the opportunity to both take part in the exercise classes and create new friendships so much that they continued participating once the programme finished. 78% of participants either maintained or increased their social contact during the Prime8 programme.
- The Living Well Arts Café in the heart of Bromley is for the homeless to come together to engage in arts activities and be signposted to relevant services.
- The Bromley Platinum Jubilee Parks Fund was launched in July 2022. The £1 million fund aims to contribute towards community led projects that improve Bromley Council’s green spaces in line with the Open Space Strategy. This includes initiatives to tackle social isolation and loneliness, with Friends of Parks groups providing local networks that others can join to help with activity in the borough.
- Bromley was the only UK local authority to be featured during The Campaign to End Loneliness’s international conference poster exhibit area in February 2023.
What’s next for the loneliness strategy?
These are the highlights of our first year of implementing the Strategy and we look forward to building on these successes in the coming years in partnerships with many more groups and organisations throughout Bromley. We can see momentum building to work together to support people at risk of and experiencing loneliness to re-connect with their communities. Our aim is to embed an understanding of loneliness and what we can do to support residents in years to come.
To find out more information go to Tackling loneliness – London Borough of Bromley.