With studies showing that socially isolated people are six times more likely to frequent GP services, loneliness has long been a pressing issue for communities. But a Barnoldswick well-being group is out to make a difference.
Having become withdrawn and socially isolated following an industrial accident in 2012, Stephen Tomlinson set up the West Craven Well Being Group in September last year in an effort to offer free peer support to prevent isolation amongst people who may still need help in staying socially active and who require access to a safe and supportive environment.
Also aiming to provide an auxiliary service for those who have been through Lancashire Well Being's eight session or three month-long programme, the group seeks to enable those who have suffered mental or physical trauma acclimatise back into a social setting.
"The group is there to pick up when the services end to support the community through better relations in the local area and to become involved with other local groups," said Stephen, who is originally from Yorkshire. "It's not only for people who have been through mental or physical crisis or people who are disabled, it is for people who might just want to have a cup of tea and a chat.
"We try and create a friendly setting to combat social isolation," he added of the venture, which does not offer medical advice, but moral and communal support for those looking to interact more regularly with others.
While a fully-qualified counsellor, Shannon Dawson, provides professional support, Stephen - along with Pamela Murphy, the Chair of the group - has himself been training to be able to offer better counselling to those who attend the meetings, which take place weekly at Barnoldswick Library at 10am on a Friday and monthly of an evening at Barnoldswick Working Men's Club.
"After my industrial accident, I myself became socially isolated and withdrawn, and that's quite common in men who finish work," explained Stephen. "So we have intentions of setting up a man shed if we can find the funding to allow people to interact more."
The group is also involved with the The Garden Gate project on Avon Drive in Barnoldswick, a project aiming to "provide a garden for recreational, educational, or therapeutic use to help the well-being of people" and which provides disabled access.
"We would love to see other groups like this appear across the district in Colne, Burnley, Nelson, and Padiham," Stephen said. "It just gives people the chance to meet and talk to others."