The AFC Fylde Community Foundation have been running a Loneliness Prevention Project which provides support to people aged over 65 who are classed as vulnerable and in need of support. The project runs through a referral process where agencies signpost people who have indicated they are in need of companionship. The Foundation’s project coordinators then make contact and worked out a plan with each individual of see how best they could be supported. This included garden gate visits, weekly phone calls and supporting them at group sessions once these were possible. Participants were offered further support to ensure they were able to obtain food and other supplies.
The Foundation has supported the community through care packages and food hampers, and this work has seen them at the forefront of referrals from local social prescribers. As Fylde is a very rural area with a significant number of older people, they feel it has been critical that this service was available throughout the last 20 months.
As part of the programme, the Foundation wanted to ensure this work could continue. They decided to create their own group in the local town of Kirkham – the Kirkham Companions. This is a weekly group meeting that offers refreshments, group talks, games and organizes days out. This has ensured that the people who were supported on a one-to-one basis during the pandemic now have a weekly friendship group they can be a part of.
Michael Whittle, the Foundation’s Community Development Manager said: “The Foundation has gone from strength to strength over the last 20 months. Staff have played a big part in ensuring that the local area of Fylde has had the support it needs, and by working closely with partners we have been able to support the community in various different ways. Coming out of lockdown we continue to do so and are now working with people of all ages from 2 – 91 years old and it goes to show that the community are benefiting from programmes such as the loneliness prevention project and the groups that are attached to them by the amount of people that are accessing our services.”
One of the group’s members is Doris, and her daughter Lynn said: “The Project has really helped my Mum, because she’s not one for mixing. She did enjoy AFC Fylde coming round, at first she’s very wary, couldn’t get her to do things she didn’t want to do but when Jackie (from the Foundation) was visiting regularly she enjoyed it, she enjoyed the chat and its brought her out in the community and abled her to meet new people at groups like this.“