Lonely people could be left even more isolated

One of the lunch events organised by Age Better in Sheffield
One of the lunch events organised by Age Better in Sheffield
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There are fears people could be left even more isolated once a loneliness project in Sheffield runs out of funding.

The Big Lottery Fund awarded the city £6m to reduce loneliness and social isolation in people aged 50 plus and Age Better in Sheffield was launched.

The project, led by South Yorkshire Housing Association, has specifically worked in Beauchief and Greenhill, Burngreave, Firth Park and Woodhouse and there is three years of funding left.

But there are concerns people could be left even more isolated if they have started attending groups which then fold once funding ends.

Coun Pat Midgley, who is chairman of the healthier communities scrutiny committee, told a meeting: “What if the funding is not there? We have lit the torch for these groups but it will be a big shock when funding is not there. It could make things even worse for people who have become used to these groups.

“I’m concerned about things stopping and starting and that people can’t keep the collective going once funding is not there.”

Liz Stirling of South Yorkshire Housing Association said they understood the concerns and were working on making the projects long lasting.

“We think about the legacy of the projects a lot because we don’t want there to be a cliff edge where everything stops and there is a gap.

“We helping people in communities to start up their own groups and we have helped a diverse number of groups from Northern Soul to Pagans and allotment holders.

“People in communities can start up their own groups and they will outlive the lifespan of this programme. We give them a bit of money to buy equipment or whatever they need to set up but then that group continues in the community for as long as there’s a need.

“It’s about people getting the support when they need it but also giving them their own tools to manage their loneliness and help them feel more capable. Some of this is getting people to be more community minded and talking to their neighbours.

“With bigger projects we are thinking about how to sustain them and what happens next. We don’t have all the answers but we are looking at it.”