Over the last 9 months Argyle Community Trust have been proud to deliver the Tackling Loneliness Together project which has connected older people who were at risk of loneliness during the pandemic. During this time the EFL Trust have been awarded £1.3 million from the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to deliver the project. Plymouth Argyle was one of the 32 EFL Community Organisations to be chosen to receive funding to be able to expand activities under the EFL campaign ‘Let’s Tackle Loneliness Together’ which has included befriending phone calls, online social groups, pen pal schemes, walking groups and socially distanced ‘garden gate’ conversations to emerge across the EFL communities and reach people who needed this vital support right when they needed it the most.
Some key work delivered by Argyle Community Trust on this project has included:
· 2,991 befriending phone calls have been made by the Trust to check on peoples’ wellbeing. This has included Simon Hallett making many phone calls from America to supporters.
· 4 online sessions have been delivered via Zoom every week aimed at different target audiences including:
- Coffee morning open to anyone over 60
- Coffee morning for Armed Forces Veterans
- Argyle Memories – Opportunity for Argyle/football fans to share stories from their time supporting Argyle and watching football.
- Seated exercise class for a group of males with dementia
With some of the people we are supporting a lot of work has taken place over recent months to provide them with electronic devices and digitally upskilling them so they are able to keep in contact with friends and family, attend online sessions, and order shopping online.
· Initially over 1,000 letters were sent out to older people to offer support during this period. In addition to this monthly support packs have been sent out which included ways to keep physically and mentally active, puzzle books, Argyle masks and snoods, and various other gifts. A pen pal scheme between care homes residents and primary school children was also developed during this period.
· Throughout this project we have also done around 15 weekly garden gate visits to those who are particularly lonely and vulnerable to check on their wellbeing. For many of these people this is the only conversation that they may have had with someone during that week.
· During this period we have also supported several local initiatives including Plymouth City Council’s Caring for Plymouth scheme and Four Greens Community Trust’s food bank which has seen us deliver almost 800 food parcels and over 200 medication prescriptions to some of the most vulnerable people in the community.
The feedback that we have received on the project has been very positive with many people appreciating the support we have given them during a difficult period. Some quotes include:
“This has really picked me up out of the dumps. At the start of lockdown I was in a really tough place and not doing very well. I was very isolated and lonely after a personal issue that took place. The project has been a lifeline and I’m extremely thankful all the staff and everyone involved.”
“The project has been remarkable for people who may be lonely or isolated like myself. It has allowed me to look forward to and get out for something.”
“Thank you to all the staff and all the help they have given me in this tough time. Also, the ipad and kindle that I have had has been amazing and really helped get my mind off things.”
“The staff have been ever so helpful and friendly; it feels like I’ve known them for years. Thank you for what you are doing.”
For more information on the project and how we have supported people at risk of loneliness please see the links below:
Plymouth Argyle tackles loneliness amongst fans during pandemic | West Country | ITV News Argyle Community Trust helps Roger after his wife’s passing – News – EFL Official Website Tackling Loneliness Together – Argyle Community Trust How Soccer Teams in UK Kept in Contact With Older Fans During Lockdown – The New York Times (nytimes.com) The Sun delivers treats and joy to the lockdown lonely as part of our Christmas Together campaign
Although the Tackling Loneliness Together project finishes today the support will continue through the Extra Time Hub which will enable us to continue the positive work that is taking place. Our aim is to reengage people back into the community and taking part in physical activity sessions and social groups again. As it stands we are currently delivering the following sessions:
· Walk & Talk – Central Park Tuesdays 10.30am – 12pm
· Walking Football – Manadon Sports & Community Hub Mondays 5pm – 7pm & Wednesdays 10am – 11am
· Extra Time Hub Online – Online social group for anyone over 60 which often includes various activities, quizzes and discussion topics.
· Argyle Memories – Online social group for senior Argyle fans where they share stories from their time supporting Argyle and watching football.
We are hoping to bring back our face-to-face Extra Time Hub session in May. The Hub provides a social group for anyone over 60 as well as an opportunity to take part in physical activity and find out more about activities that are happening in their local community. We are also looking to develop further provisions from the new Central Park Sports Hub over the coming months. For more information please contact Ben Kerswell (email@example.com).