Tackling social isolation in Daventry

Representatives from Happy at Home, the Volunteer Centre and Cummins at the ping pong table   one of the activities at the cafe
Representatives from Happy at Home, the Volunteer Centre and Cummins at the ping pong table  one of the activities at the cafe

We all know our district is a rural one, with limited public transport and few low-cost social activities.

For many that poses a minor problem – you can jump in the car and get into Daventry town centre, or head off to places like Rugby or the pub in the next village. But what if you can’t do that?

Daventrys mayor Wendy Randall and Michelle Townsend from Northamptonshire Police at the event

Daventrys mayor Wendy Randall and Michelle Townsend from Northamptonshire Police at the event

Many older residents in the district face this type of problem – they may not have the means or the money to travel far, family and friends may have moved away, and within the district their choice of activities may also be limited.

This leads to the problem of social isolation. Although it is not a problem that only affects older people, it is one where the majority of people in that situation are older, particularly in our district.

On Thursday last week Cummins and Daventry Volunteer Centre launched a project to try to tackle this problem. They held a community cafe event in the town’s Welfare Rooms in New Street.

Dot Boyles, HR leader at Cummins, said: “Cummins believes we should give back to the community.

The hall at the Welfare Foundation during the community cafe

The hall at the Welfare Foundation during the community cafe

“One of the things we’ve been pushing for is a way to measure what we do is creating an impact. We carried out a community needs assessment and one of the main problems we found out was social isolation among older residents.

“We found there were lots of organisations doing things that can help, but nowhere that all that information was put together.”

As well as Cummins and the volunteer centre, the community cafe event also saw the police, Care and Repair, the Happy At Home Partnership, Daventry and District Housing, DACT transport and mobility, and the Daventry and District Forum for the over-50s.

On Thursday the Welfare Rooms were full of visitors who had come along to find out information, have a chat with old friends, make new ones and join in some of the fun and games.

Dot said: “We organised this community cafe event with various different partners to give older people information, let them play games and socialise with a cup of tea and some cake.

“We’ve also had people like the Happy at Home Partnership here – they send volunteers round to older residents to talk to them and pass on information.

“We’ve got a stall here teaching people how to use Skype, because they may have friends and relatives who live elsewhere in the country, or the world, and technology like Skype is fantastic for keeping in touch and seeing those people for free.

“But we also surveyed all of the people who came along to find out what type of social activities they would come along to if someone organised them.

“We’ve had a lot of suggestions, and some unusual ones including speed dating!

“We’ll look at what we can do and sort something out.

“If the people who completed the survey asked for more events like this coffee morning, we’ll see about doing more of them. Or it could be something else entirely.

“Basically all the suggestions have been social in some way, where people can get together, do an activity, but also talk to and meet people.

“We really want whatever we do to be something that older people want to come along to.”

Jayne Cardow is the co-ordinator of Cummins’ Every Employee Every Community programme at Daventry. She said: “It was a really busy event – we had lots of people coming along and there was a steady stream of people turning up over the day.”

Carella Davies, manager of Daventry Volunteer Centre, said: “We’ve teamed up with Cummins for this project. We want to put on some activities so that these people become less isolated. We’re also working with the Daventry and District Welfare Foundation now as well to expand the use of the building for the community.”

This drive to combat social isolation is unusual because it is being led by charities and private firms, not the social care sector from the local councils – which are struggling with cuts to their funding. The county council has been cutting back some of the services it does not have to provide, and privatising others parts of its work.

Dot said: “Cummins is possibly the biggest employer in the town – the community are our ex-employees and the relatives or friends of current employees, so it makes sense for us to be trying to help them. It helps the community, and it helps our employees as well.”