Good Neighbour Scheme gives pensioner a ‘new lease of life’

East Sussex County Council Good Neighbour Scheme Volunteer Sue McGinnis with Irene Verrall from Hailsham (photo submitted). SUS-150826-113542001
East Sussex County Council Good Neighbour Scheme Volunteer Sue McGinnis with Irene Verrall from Hailsham (photo submitted). SUS-150826-113542001

A network of volunteers is helping to combat a rise in social isolation across the county.

Good Neighbour Schemes, run by coordinators in individual towns and villages, link people in need to volunteers who can provide transport to doctor appointments, or help with shopping, gardening and housework.

But support can also come in the form of just visiting for a cup of tea.

For 94-year-old Irene Verrall, who lives in Hailsham, weekly visits from volunteer Sue McGinnis have given her a ‘new lease of life’, while she said she enjoyed the company.

“Meeting Irene has been fantastic, she has become like a mum to me,” Sue said. “Visiting Irene has given me a lot as well and I always enjoy coming to see her.

“It works two ways and it’s very rewarding. I didn’t expect to become so close to Irene.”

East Sussex County Council is working with five community and voluntary organisations to support the scheme’s development, and boost the number of registered volunteers.

Teresa Gittins, from Action in Rural Sussex, said there were a number of established schemes in the High Weald, Lewes and Havens area but there were others that needed more volunteers.

She added: “Being a predominantly rural area, there are a lot of people who need help with transport to appointments and shopping trips, but we are keen to encourage schemes to offer more befriending services.

“People think there are council services that should be looking after vulnerable people in communities, but the Good Neighbour Scheme is breaking down the ‘them and us’ barriers.

“It is making people realise that they could do something to help.”

Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for adult social care, welcomed the renewed focus on Good Neighbour Schemes across the county.

He said: “East Sussex has one of the largest populations of people over the age of 85 in the country, with around ten per cent saying they feel lonely.

“The Good Neighbour Schemes play a vital role in tackling the growing problem of social isolation.

“People within a community are usually well placed to see when their neighbours need a helping hand, a bit of support or just a friendly face to pop in for a chat.

“It’s the little things that can make a huge difference to the life of an elderly, vulnerable person.”

To find out more about the Good Neighbour Schemes, how to set one up or volunteer in your local community, visit new.eastsussex.gov.uk/community/volunteering/good_neighbour_schemes/

To find your local Good Neighbour Scheme visit eastsussex.gov.uk/1spacegoodneighbours

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