A local charity is celebrating 20 years running its Neighbourhood Care Scheme (NCS), showing what is possible when you harness the power of neighbourly goodwill.
The NCS is a neighbour to neighbour support scheme, provided by Brighton & Hove Impetus, helping older people and people with physical disabilities and their carers. Since May 1998, Sean de Podesta has been leading the team of staff and volunteers, making vital connections to reduce social isolation and improve wellbeing.
Brighton and Hove census data reveals there are more than 35,000 people over 65 living in the city (13% of the population), 11,556 of whom are over the age of 80. A massive 41% of these older people are living alone, higher than the national average.
One of the biggest befriending schemes in the country, the Neighbourhood Care Scheme trained and inspired 321 volunteers in 2017-18, to deliver more than 12,000 hours of support to 351 isolated people. Back in 1998-99, 23 volunteers provided support to just 22 people. Since then NCS has matched more than a thousand volunteers with a similar number of isolated people, creating long-term, life-enhancing relationships that often last the remaining lifetime of the scheme member.
Sean de Podesta, NCS Service Manager, says: “By being drawn to the attention of neighbours, our NCS members benefit from the goodwill and company of people whom they would not otherwise meet, creating more caring communities. Our most important impact is in establishing hundreds of meaningful relationships, bringing the community into the homes of isolated people.”
Feedback from scheme members over the years is overwhelmingly positive and comments include: “Talking with [my volunteer] is a delight. I no longer feel alone with my ideas and dreams for the future.” “She brings the outside in to me now that I’m housebound.”, “[My volunteer] has helped me to continue living independently.” “[My volunteer] makes me laugh, is wonderful company and brightens up my week.”
Volunteers also comment: “I was shocked at the facts and figures around loneliness locally; there are so many people whose lives are affected. Volunteering with the NCS is an easy thing I can do to help.” “[Volunteering with NCS] is greatly rewarding, you learn about yourself, about them, about people and about life.” “[The woman I visit] has had a very interesting and full life, she has enriched my cultural and intellectual life, I have learnt from her, her stories, her travelling, history.”
In 2014 Impetus took the lead in establishing the Brighton and Hove Befriending Coalition, bringing together most befriending organisations in the city. The group share experience and good practice and provide volunteer training with the aim of providing neighbour to neighbour support to as many people in the city as possible.
In the coming year NCS will be working with its partners to ensure greater inclusion of BME and LGBTQ communities. NCS will also continue, through its links with Befriending Networks and the Campaign to End Loneliness, to contribute to the national debate on loneliness.
Jo Ivens, Impetus’s CEO, says: “We’re proud of the impact the NCS has had locally over 20 years, tackling loneliness and its devastating effects on people’s health and wellbeing. I’m personally looking forward to celebrating with staff, volunteers, scheme members and key partners at our party at the Sallis Benney theatre, Sunday 1 July. And we are committed to continuing the good work, sharing our learning to ensure that other localities can learn from our positive experience in Brighton & Hove.”
More details about the NCS, how to get support and how to volunteer, at: www.bh-impetus.org/neighbourhood-care-scheme