Lotto cash helps older people stay in the community

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THE future of an older people’s service that tackles social isolation and depression is secure for five years after winning a huge £420,000 lottery grant.

Gosport Voluntary Action’s project will see a boost for its team of 60 volunteers who visit, call and arrange group meetings with older people.

HELPING From left, Jean Legg with the approved provider standard certificate, Patsy Whittaker, Jean Leathem, and Angela Cooke from Gosport Voluntary Action group's befriending service. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132801-1)

HELPING From left, Jean Legg with the approved provider standard certificate, Patsy Whittaker, Jean Leathem, and Angela Cooke from Gosport Voluntary Action group's befriending service. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132801-1)

And the service is set to expand, with a new dedicated advocacy service and an increase in the group gatherings, giving people a chance to meet others.

Jean Legg is the co-ordinator of the befriending service at GVA, which also runs a gardening and home repair service for those who need it.

She has worked for 10 years at the service, which has so far had 1,000 referrals from healthcare professionals.

She said: ‘The funding is amazingly important. It helps social isolation and loneliness but this award is so much more important because we can incorporate more things and take on more staff, which means we can expand the service.’

Jean added that without the funding the group would not exist.

She said: ‘Without it there would be a higher degree of social isolation and loneliness. People couldn’t get help for decorating, gardening and repairs – that would all lead to depression.’

Peggy Young, 95, of Lee-on-the-Solent, has used the befriender service since January and goes along to monthly small social groups in volunteers’ homes.

She said her daughter, of Bedhampton, will soon be moving, meaning she will need the service more.

‘She’s moving to Devon and that means I have no immediate family anywhere near,’ she said. ‘It’s very useful. I can have someone to contact and come and see me. I’m slightly disabled so I need somebody to help.

‘We have quite a lot of laughs, we seem to have hit it off.’

Kind-hearted befrienders Patsy Whittaker, Jean Leathem and Angela Cooke are three of around 60 volunteers – and the service needs more to help older people on the waiting list.

All three said they enjoy helping people who need a friend.

Jean said: ‘You bring your own experience to it, most of it is common sense.

‘You find out things about them – I always loved listening to older people anyway, even when I was younger.’