The more we work together the better it will be

Speed networking in 2019

Speed networking in 2019 - Credit: Di Fuller

A couple of weeks ago Sid Valley Help held their bi-monthly remote network meeting attended by 29 people representing 18 organisations that provide health and wellbeing support in the valley.

We focussed on sharing ideas to reduce loneliness, both now while there are still restrictions on our movements and activities and also what we should be planning for providing later in the year. Loneliness does not discriminate against age and can be triggered by various life events. It particularly affects people living alone, those with underlying health conditions and carers. During the pandemic loneliness has had far reaching effects.

Emily Lezzeri of Ottery Help spoke about two projects they are involved in: Digital inclusion, using a National Lottery grant and another to provide respite for carers. For many people the last year has provided incentives to use technology to link up with family and friends, but many others do not realise what they are missing. What many of us take for granted is a mystery for those who have no experience of IT.

Nicola Cornish reported that The Filo Project: “Offers high quality day care for small groups of older people across the Sid Valley area and beyond. When many of us experience social isolation, our groups provide a warm and welcoming environment. Transport and a home-cooked lunch are included. With people’s wellbeing at the heart of our service, we adhere to government guidelines and follow Covid protocols. Contact 0333 939 8225 or info@thefiloproject for more information.”

All organisations have to decide when to open up usual services. This presents a juggling act between responding to the needs of clients that require support to re-enter their normal routine and also make sure that we are following government advice for the most vulnerable in our society. In our discussion groups we heard that some people are very reluctant to go out and it may need perseverance to get them involved with activities again. Some people have shut themselves away and it is difficult to reach out to them.

Sidmouth Hospice at Home is restarting befriending, patient transport and bereavement support where necessary outdoors. They are keeping in touch with carers of people living with dementia. SHH has a plan with dates to restart all services but this obviously depends on government restrictions. From April 12 SHH will be opening the Information Centre on the High Street from 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday. SHH, Sid Valley Help and Sid Valley Memory Café will focus on information to support dementia for a week starting on April 26.

Many activities will resume from May when cafes can seat people indoors, people can meet in groups of six and larger groups can meet outdoors. The Talking Newspaper plans to start broadcasting again on May 18. From Wednesday May 19 the OASIS café reopens in the Dissenter Dance Hall from 12.15pm to 1.45pm. It is free to all at lunchtimes and then every Wednesday. Sid Valley Help will resume befriending in people’s homes and our Tea and Chat activities at the Mustard Seed. Keep updated at

All being well, Carol Drover-Taylor said that: “from the beginning of July, Sidmouth Voluntary Services will be re-opening our Morning Café 9am to 11.30am serving tea, coffees and snacks plus the Pop-up larder – redistributing free food that would otherwise go to waste. From the beginning of August the shopping buses to Lidl and Waitrose will start.”

It was clear from the discussion groups that there is a huge benefit in sharing problems and solutions to providing support as we emerge from this lockdown. Many people have already had both vaccinations and feel a bit more confident to start getting out and about. Our role in the community and voluntary sector is to support that as much as we can. The more we work together the better it will be.

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