Minister hails ground-breaking Reconnections

Published Monday, 23rd May 2016

Worcestershire County Council's ground-breaking Reconnections scheme has been praised by the Minister for Civil Society who said it has a clear focus on reducing loneliness and the knock on costs to t

Robert Wilson MP declared his commitment to the programme at the showcase event 'Tackling Loneliness'.

The Minister was keen to talk about why Local Authorities should commission for outcomes, and used the Reconnections programme as an example of how such an approach can get, "to the heart of some of the most entrenched social problems we face."

He added: "Paying for outcomes lies at the heart of transforming services: making sure taxpayers' money focused on getting the best outcomes for the most disadvantaged members of local communities."

Cllr John Smith, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Health and Well-Being said: "With recent figures suggesting that over a million people aged 65+ regularly experience loneliness, it is hugely important that we address this issue. In tackling the health effects of loneliness, we will also be helping reduce accompanying costs and pressure on services. We are proud of the positive impact Reconnections is having on lonely people across Worcestershire, and we are delighted to be the first Council in the Country to spear-head this new approach."

More than 3,000 vulnerable people are being helped to overcome loneliness through the innovative 'Reconnections' scheme. This is the first use of a Social Impact Bond* in the country specifically to tackle loneliness.

The Reconnections service has been operating since August 2015, and so far it has received more than 600 referrals to help people tackle loneliness. Here are just some examples of the many successes to date (names have been changed):

Jenny, aged 95, said: "Since I have been involved with "Reconnections" it has been a lovely way of getting out of my house and meeting new people. I enjoy every minute of being out and have met generous, caring people. I would certainly miss it if I wasn't involved."

Joan, aged 76, said: "The Reconnections programme has boosted my confidence in enabling me to come out of my house. I feel that Christmas has come early, I am more animated and happier because of it."

Emily, aged 84, said: "I feel like I have been reborn!"

Alf Clay: "Reconnections are like a family to me."

Sybil said: "(Reconnections) has altered my life. It is absolutely brilliant."

Sybil's neighbour: "I don’t know what you’re doing, but Sybil is a changed woman."

The Reconnections service is provided by Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire, together with local voluntary and community organisations. Reconnections covers the whole of Worcestershire and aims to reduce older people’s feelings of loneliness by reconnecting them with interests, sharing skills and activities in their local communities.

Worcestershire’s ageing population and increasing financial pressure on health and social care creates a need to better support older people in their own communities, to help them live more independent lives. By connecting people to those around them, they can stay happier and healthier for longer.

Alf Clay, Reconnections service user said: "I can’t believe the things I’m doing now. I have to tell people 'I can't make Thursday afternoon. I've got plans!'"

He added: "I volunteered for years until cancer struck me down. Now I'm better, and I want to get volunteering again."

Alf also urged people experiencing loneliness to contact Reconnections, saying: "If you don't ask, you don't get."

The event was held at The Studio, The Hive, on Thursday 19 May 2016.

To find out more about Reconnections, visit the website www.reconnectionsservice.org.uk