This week 32 football clubs launched the ‘Tackling Loneliness Together’ project which is aimed at connecting older people at risk of loneliness.
A recent study from the Office National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.6 million adults reported that they felt lonely ”often” or ”always” whilst 7.4 million adults reported their well-being had been affected through them having felt lonely in the past seven days.
COVID-19 and the lock down restrictions brought loneliness in to sharp focus. In these troubled times Football Clubs across the country stepped up to provide a vital life line for people that were or could have been affected by loneliness. Over 120,000 phone calls were made, food and prescriptions were delivered, conversations were held at garden gates activities such as quizzes and coffee morning were held online and when people couldn’t access the internet they were loaned tablets.
Many people like Roger, who is a season ticket holder at Plymouth Argyle, benefited from the support that has been offered by his club. As we went into lockdown he unexpectedly lost his wife and faced isolation on his own. The Community Trust have supported him with regular calls and doorstep visits. Roger, aged 80, said: “Losing my wife was a terrible time and facing isolation alone was something I was dreading, however the support that I have received from Argyle Community Trust and the Club has been fantastic and has helped me feel less lonely and got through the darker days.”
Now thanks to a grant of £810,000 from the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), 32 EFL Club Community Organisations in locations considered to be deprived will continue and expand this work.
The new grants will allow for expanded activities across the country under the campaign ‘Let’s Tackle Loneliness Together’. As well as the befriending phone calls, online social groups and pen-pal schemes that started during the COVID 19 restrictions, Football Clubs will be doing much more to tackle loneliness.
Many CCOs are involving young people of their NCS programme as a way to connect the generations and make a lasting impact across the generations.
Derby County have a volunteer chef and have filmed 6 cooking sessions aimed at males who live alone or are living with partners who are no longer able to cook. The Rams are working with Coop on this initiative, who organise the ingredients for their staff and volunteers to collect and deliver to individuals.
Club Doncaster Foundation, Doncaster Rovers charity have launched an online community, called Home Goals, which has given local people a platform to communicate safely, as they learn new exercises and activities. Over 700 people, all of which are people who live in and around the Doncaster area, were encouraged to do one form of exercise each day during the month of July, and to share their experiences and feelings with other members of the group.
Middlesbrough FC Foundation are clearing an overgrown garden that will be used to create a safe distanced space for residents to meet. This month young people from Boro’s NCS groups are going to carry out more work in the garden to sow new flowers and plants. The Foundation is also working to bring together a gardening group of local people to maintain the area.
The EFL Trust will also be one of a number of charities and business across the UK who will join the government’s Tackling Loneliness Network, leading the charge against Loneliness. The group will explore ways to bring people together to build strong community spirit, with a focus on groups at particular risk of loneliness, and will work to continue these initiatives in the future.