Lancashire social isolation charity Community Solutions: 'We can't wait to see people again... nothing beats a friendly face'

As a charity dedicated to supporting people across East Lancashire in their efforts to live healthier, better, and more fulfilling lives, there is no question that Community Solutions has been providing a truly invaluable service during the coronavirus pandemic.
Deborah Clark, and volunteer Bernadette Groves WrightDeborah Clark, and volunteer Bernadette Groves Wright
Deborah Clark, and volunteer Bernadette Groves Wright

Committed, as they are, to doing all they can to tackle loneliness and social-isolation, the past 12 months have shone a national light on the importance of healthy human connections, which is very much Community Solutions’ area of expertise.

Operating on their steadfast belief that every person matters and no person should ever feel alone, the Accrington-based charity and social enterprise offers critical support to people who may be facing loneliness.

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They also work with those going through life-changing circumstances, such as bereavement and loss, health diagnosis, family breakdown, redundancy, or a personal crisis, offering that much-needed dash of compassion to proceedings.

(From left) Volunteers Mickey Mensah, Mark Roberts and Craig Clark(From left) Volunteers Mickey Mensah, Mark Roberts and Craig Clark
(From left) Volunteers Mickey Mensah, Mark Roberts and Craig Clark

And, naturally, over the past 12 months, the number of people who meet such criteria has gone through the roof.

“We have a number of participants who’ve been shielding for the better part of 12 months now due to their age or health conditions,” says Deborah Clark, the CEO and founder of Community Solutions. “These people would normally be supported with home visits or would visit one of our weekly social groups but, as they’ve been required to shield, their social interactions have really decreased leaving them feeling more isolated than ever.”

Given their remit, demand for Community Solutions’ vital services has skyrocketed over the past 12 months, with the number of people accessing their befriending service alone increasing by 300%.

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In order to shine a ray of light into people’s lives, however, they recently marked the one-year anniversary of the country going into lockdown by gifting people free Spring-themed well-being boxes.

Hyndburn resident, Eva Batty (90) receives her Spring BoxHyndburn resident, Eva Batty (90) receives her Spring Box
Hyndburn resident, Eva Batty (90) receives her Spring Box

“We gifted almost 500 well-being boxes over the festive period,” explains Deborah, who has over 25 years’ experience of working in the health, social care, community, and faith sectors.

“[We] had a hugely positive response with people telling us how much it meant to them to know someone was thinking of them at this time.”

Social Care Manager Katrina Leigh agrees, adding: “We’re continuing to offer support to all of our participants and to all of our new referrals with regular telephone and digital befriending calls, crisis support, and our Building Better Opportunities programme.

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“[But] nothing beats seeing a friendly face on your doorstep and a surprise parcel [and] we’ve been able to gift people with some essential items, along with an Easter egg and a beautiful primula plant to welcome the arrival of Spring.

“We can almost see light at the end of the tunnel now, but we know it has been a long road for many people and just wanted to let them know we still care and boost their mental well-being.”

On-hand to offer a range of befriending and mentoring services - including home visits, social groups, telephone and digital befriending, counselling, crisis support, and training - Community Solutions decided the boxes would remind local residents who have either spent the last year shielding or who have been forced into crisis due to the impact of the pandemic that they were still being thought of.

“We’ve been well supported once again by Onward Homes and The Cardboard Box Company, along with Barlick Plants by John, who’ve helped make this possible,” said Enterprise Development Manager Leanne Taylor. “We know that it will make a massive difference to people [and] we can’t wait to see people in person again.”

For more information on Community Solutions' befriending services, crisis support, or social groups, please contact Leanne Taylor on 01254 460080 or email [email protected]

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