Let’s make isolation and loneliness history in West Somerset

Loneliness ConferenceSaturday 17 October 2015 9.15 pm – 12.30 pm at The Beach Hotel, Minehead, TA24 5AP

A ground-breaking conference brought nearly 50 delegates together share ideas and information on making isolation and loneliness history in West Somerset. The conference, at The Beach Hotel in Minehead, provided a wealth of information about successful projects being delivered in West Somerset.

Below are the presentations and links from the conference:

Jo Purvis from Somerset County Council painting the picture of the community living in the district and how this may change over the coming years.

SCC Loneliness in West Somerset (2.4mb pdf)

Mandy Averill from Age UK outlined how they were working with GP Surgeries in Dunster (including patients from the Washford Surgery), Porlock, Dulverton and Irnham Lodge, Minehead to help people live better.  So instead of the GP writing a medical prescription, the GP produces a social prescription for the patient to meet with Age UK.  The pilot has only been running since April but already referred patients are feeling the benefit of this scheme with improvements in health, overcoming loneliness and increasing confidence.

Age UK - Mandy Averill (409kb pdf)

Raj Singh from Community Council for Somerset explained how they had been able to extend their ‘Village Agent’ service in West Somerset due to additional funding from the Big Lottery.  Raj highlighted the successes Village Agents had achieved such as setting up community car schemes in small communities.   http://somersetrcc.org.uk/somerset-village-agents-project/

Fun in the community was delivered by a double act:  Fiona Mahoney from Reminiscence Learning described their ‘Archie Project’, which involves primary school children working with people in residential care or sheltered housing to learn about Archie, the scarecrow, who has Alzheimer’s and how they can help him.  The project had been delivered in Williton and was happening at present in Dulverton.   www.reminiscencelearning.co.uk/archie

This was followed by Carl Smethurst highlighting the great projects Watchet Baptist Church had delivered in the local community including  Family Brunches, Friendship Group, Community Meals, Lighthouse Counselling and Friendship Circle.  Minehead Baptists had developed the Hub which has soft play area for young children and a meeting room for hire to all.  Street Pastors are another group of volunteers who engage with people on the streets during the evenings in Minehead.

Baptist Fun in the Community (932kb pdf)

Conference speakerThese presentations were interspersed by ‘Pop-Up’ Health sessions on happiness (Fiona Mahoney), food and exercise (Izzy Silvester) due to the main sponsor for the event being Somerset Public Health.

Pop-up Health – Eating & Exercise (220kb pdf)


Nik HarwoodFinally, Nik Harwood from Somerset Rural Youth Project divided delegates into groups to map the activities already happening in West Somerset, identifying gaps and agree on possible actions. Suggested actions included: 

  • extending community transport service, including transport specifically for those with sight loss.
  • extending Age UK social prescribing project across the district
  • developing really affordable social housing via West Somerset Community Land Trust
  • community run swimming pool
  • information gathered and shared in villages via Village Agents
  • ‘Holidays at home’ rolled out across the district
  • every delegate to go and talk to someone who is lonely or isolated
  • explore the potential for additional roles for postal delivery services.

For more information, contact:
Gail Sloman
Email: gksloman@westsomerset.gov.uk
Telephone: 01984 635208