New project will use technology to tackle loneliness and isolation

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COMMUNITY AGENTS will provide face-to-face support to vulnerable lonely people as part of a new scheme looking at novel ways of addressing social isolation.

The Doncaster Community Connect project will also tackle digital exclusion, and aims to discover how using tablet and app technology could relieve the two issues.

The innovative scheme, which will be delivered by Rural Action Yorkshire in partnership with the People Focussed Group (PFG), will work in both rural and urban areas and is being funded by Doncaster Council and the town’s clinical commissioning group.

Its main purpose will be to test new ways of supporting older, isolated and vulnerable people living in Intake, Braithwell, Old Edlington, Micklebring, and Stainton.

A key part of the scheme are two ‘Community Agents’, who are tasked with identifying and alleviating individual cases of loneliness and exclusion across the geographic areas. They will provide face-to-face support and signpost to other agencies where appropriate.

The innovative use of app technology will connect service users with the wider community and keep them in touch with the Community Agents, project co-ordinator Wayne Munro-Smith said.

“The bespoke app will be user-friendly and based on simple one-tap technology enabling its adoption by users of all digital abilities. A small focus group of older people will test out the idea, with the project providing internet usage and fully-funded tablets to use,” he said. “In the long run, it is hoped that not only will this app enable people to stay in their own homes for longer, but it will encourage the learning of new skills and the reduction in feelings of loneliness and isolation in later life. It could bring new vigour and hope to those most at risk of exclusion in Doncaster.”

The Yorkshire Post is campaigning for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority. In February, we revealed that nine of the region’s health and wellbeing boards failed to give significant mention of loneliness and social isolation in their strategies. Four have since pledged action, but five, including Doncaster, have not yet made a firm commitment to tackle the issue.