That’s when good neighbours become good friends

East Sussex County Council is working with Action in Rural Sussex to support the development of Good Neighbour Schemes to prevent isolation and loneliness


Volunteer Jennifer McInness with Audrey Mark Fort

East Sussex has one of the largest populations of people over the age of 85 in the country, and around 10 per cent say they feel lonely.

The schemes, run by co-ordinators in towns and villages, link people in communities that need support with volunteers who are able to help.

Hartfield, Forest Row and Rotherfield already have successful ‘Good Neighbour Schemes’, with Wadhurst launching a Befriending Scheme in September.

Volunteers offer transport to doctor appointments, help with shopping, gardening and housework.  They also help with letter writing and filling out forms or just pop in for a cup of tea and a chat.

Audrey Mark Fort, who benefits from a Good Neighbour Scheme in the Wealden area, said:

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the volunteers who come to see me

Audrey is unable to walk on her own after having a fall and was spending more and more time alone at home.   But thanks to a Good Neighbour Scheme, Audrey now receives regular visits from volunteer Jennifer McInness.

Audrey said:

I wanted someone to talk to, as it’s quite lonely when you can’t get out and it’s helped me so much. Jennifer and I have a really nice relationship.

Jennifer, a widow herself, visits Audrey twice a week and takes her out for a walk, picks up shopping and keeps her company:

It makes me feel good to do something worthwhile.  It’s nice for me to meet different people and I am there for Audrey if she needs me or wants to talk.

The day to day running of schemes is carried out by a local co-ordinator with the support of voluntary organisations.

Teresa Gittins, deputy chief executive at Action in Rural Sussex, said there were a number of established schemes but others that needed more volunteers to offer help and support.

Being a predominantly rural area, there are a lot of people who need help with transport to appointments and shopping trips, but we are keen to encourage schemes to offer more befriending services.

People think there are council services that could be looking after vulnerable people in communities, but the Good Neighbour Scheme is breaking down the ‘them and us’ barriers.  It is making people realise that they should do something to help.

To find out more about the Good Neighbour Schemes, get recognised as another source of help or to volunteer your time, download a Good Neighbour Scheme Toolkit.  Or contact Teresa Gittins on 01273 407306 or email teresa.gittins@ruralsussex.org.uk.

Other sources of help

There are also other many social groups being run by local voluntary and church groups in the Crowborough area for those who find it hard to get-out on their own.  In June national charity Contact the Elderly established a new social group in Crowborough, and there are also community transport schemes run by All Saints Church and Wealdlink.

If you already run a scheme in the Crowborough area make sure details are included on the CrowboroughLife Community pages.

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