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Bid to end loneliness is key part of campaign

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: February 02, 2014

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GROUPS and businesses are being encouraged to sign up for a new campaign aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation among older people in East Staffordshire.

The ‘Up for a Chat?’ campaign will see volunteers sporting badges to show they are more than happy to spend a few minutes talking with or helping out older members of the community.

‘Up for a Chat?” is being piloted in East Staffordshire and already more than 60 companies have signed up to take part in the eight-week scheme.

Robbie Marshall (pictured), Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “In Staffordshire, we have seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of people who are pensioner age or older in the last ten years and we know that developing friendships, staying active and really being part of a community really contribute to people’s overall health and wellbeing.

“As people become a little older there are perhaps less opportunities for them socially and really this campaign is about not only helping residents develop more friendships and trusted contacts in the community, but is also about encouraging us all to question whether we are making the most of everything older members of our community really have to offer us.

“We all lead busy lives, and in a time when many of us may not even know our neighbours, this an opportunity to think less about ourselves and more about how a simple act of kindness and consideration can make all the difference and encourage us all to be part of a friendlier, happier community.”

The pilot schemes will run for eight weeks and volunteers will need to register and abide by a code of conduct.

They must also be willing to agree to additional security checks if asked.

A spokesman for the Burton branch of Age UK, who are involved in the project, said: “Because tackling the isolation and loneliness of older people in practical ways is a top priority for Age UK, we welcome this campaign to encourage friendlier communities.

“We wish the campaign success in getting local people involved, in promoting local services and activities for meeting people and staying active such as this charity’s, and in fostering new social opportunities for older people across East Staffordshire.”

People who would like to volunteer for ‘Up for a Chat?’ are being asked to register and wear a special campaign badge whenever they are willing to be stopped for a chat.

A spokesman for the county council said: “They will be asked to wear it only at times that suit them.

“If people can only spare half an hour a week, that’s fine.

“They don’t need any special skills other than a willingness to listen.

“Businesses, organisations or group scan also register.

“Once they have registered we’ll send them a welcome pack containing everything they need.

“If they are a business we can include posters and window stickers too.”

To get involved and register www.staffordshire.gov.uk/upforachat or call 03001 118000

The scheme will run until Sunday, March 23.

If anyone is over 60, they can call Age UK Burton for advice about their options on 01283 510106 or they can email info@ageukburton.co.uk.

East Staffs Mobility Link Community Transport are also signed up and are offering advice to the elderly on transport matters.

More information is available by calling 01283 512705.

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