Kirklees looks to Tennessee for help in tackling loneliness

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THEY may be more than 4,000 miles apart, but council chiefs in Kirklees are looking to Nashville, Tennessee, for help in tackling loneliness in older people.

The local authority has paired with the American city, famed for its country music, as part of the Cities of Service programme, which was founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Last month the programme awarded Kirklees 1 million Euro as part of a scheme that helps share the most innovative ideas that solve the biggest problems in city life.

Last week Laurel Creech, the Chief Service Officer for the city of Nashville, visited Kirklees to share experiences she learnt in overseeing the city’s efforts to mobilise volunteers in the wake of a devastating flood.

She spent the week her Kirklees’ counterpart, Rachael Loftus, who is working with communities and the Council to identify local challenges where volunteers can make a real difference, inlcuidng the Out and About scheme, which aims to train older volunteers to work with those at risk of loneliness, and to identify opportunities for them to get and about in all sorts of different ways.

Earlier this year, Kirklees Council came under fire from The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign as one of nine local authorities in the region to significantly mention tackling loneliness in their Health and Wellbeing Strategies, which identify and prioritise health issues.

But in July it revised the strategy to recognise the importance of being connected to other people.

A mentoring scheme for men will also take place as part of the scheme, which has attracted £30,000 in funding from local government innovators Nesta,

MENtors will pair young men with an older male mentor to help them through periods of change. This could be leaving care to live independently, leaving the armed forces, or from being in education or training to working full time or looking for work.

Ms Creech said: “On behalf of Mayor Karl Dean, Nashville, Tennessee, I am honoured to be meeting Kirklees Chief Service Officer - Rachael Loftus, as part of the Cities of Service movement. I am impresses with the groundswell of interest, passion and desire to get involved in the community and to help others lift the district up all together.”

Kirkless councillor Jean Calvert, the local ambassador for the programme, said: “It’s been exciting and rewarding to learn from Laurel, who has been really successful in delivering Nashville’s City of Service programme.”