A NEW project aiming to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Inverness has been launched after a survey identified the city to be among the UK’s loneliest places.
The Highland capital is among 39 locations being targeted by the British Red Cross for its new community connector service.
Over the next 18 months, the Inverness scheme aims to provide vital support for about 400 adults of all ages who feel they have no one to whom they can turn.
Volunteers and staff will work directly with individuals encouraging and helping them to reconnect with services and becoming invoved with activities in their community.
The scheme, being introduced in national partnership with the Co-op, will be set up in places such as Aberdeen, Dundee and the Shetlands although Inverness is one of the first.
It is being co-ordinated by David Caulfield who at 20 is the youngest staff member in the UK to be appointed in that particular Red Cross role.
The former Culloden Academy pupil applied for the role having taken on a range of volunteer roles with the charity.
He is also a volunteer at the RNLI Kessock lifeboat station and a leader of the 18th Inverness Sea Scouts.
“I’ve seen how practical support can mean so much to people in the community, and I could see the difference tackling loneliness can make,” said Mr Caulfield .
“It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re doing something positive for someone and helping them get their identity and self-confidence back”.
Mr Caulfield, who became a Red Cross volunteer 18 months ago, has been on standby to give first aid at events across Scotland and is part of the emergency response team for the Highlands.
But he was inspired to apply for the paid role with the new scheme through volunteering with the charity’s mobility support and independent living projects which help people in their home to get the support they need after a hospital stay.
“ Isolation can happen anywhere for a whole number of reasons whether it’s living in a rural area or because of illness, a life event or old age,” he said.
“As a community connector, I want to bring all my energy and enthusiasm to offer companionship and support to people who feel all too alone.”
The study by the Co-op and Red Cross revealed epidemic levels of loneliness and social isolation in the UK, with over nine million adults of all ages feeling always or often lonely.
Key triggers included becoming a mother, divorce or separation, experiencing health and mobility issues, retiring or bereavement.
It found the impacts of loneliness and social isolation could be s damaging to health as smoking and obesity.
In response, Co-op members and customers raised over £6 million to help tackle the issue.
“I was surprised to discover just how many people are affected by loneliness and social isolation,” Mr Caulfield said.
“I’d encourage anyone to come forward and join us in tackling this hidden epidemic.
“By giving just a few hours a week you can make such a big difference, both to the lives of people affected and our community as a whole”.
- For more information about volunteering, or to help someone affected by loneliness or social isolation receive support, contact the British Red Cross Inverness Community Connector service at ConnectInverness@redcross.org.uk or (01463) 796620.