[Sandra Ashton Jones, Head of Service – Mental Health, to present briefing paper]
Sandra Ashton Jones, Head of Service – Mental Health, introduced Tom Denham, Head of Service, and explained that this would be joint presentation to the panel about some of the work being done across the City by the Council and partner agencies to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst adults using both community and digital initiatives. The Head of Service advised the panel the issues of loneliness and social isolation is not a phenomenon specific to Wolverhampton and there is growing awareness of the problem across the UK. Recent studies have suggested that around 1.2 million older people in the UK are believed to be struggling with severe loneliness and chronic isolation.
The Head of Service listed examples of ordinary life events that could be triggers for loneliness such as being an informal carer, becoming new parents or relationship breakdown. The Head of Service (Mental Health) outlined the preparation work done at a multi-agency level to map levels of social isolation and loneliness in the city. The initial plan was to focus on Low Hill/Bushbury areas initially then roll out to other parts of the city. However, the start of the project was delayed due to Covid-19 outbreak. However, agencies have continued to develop ways to respond to and reduce loneliness and social isolation in Wolverhampton.
The Head of Service (Mental Health) added that during the period the service completed over a thousand carers conversations. The support was offered either online or in person, with appropriate safety measures and wearing PPE.
The support ranged from online library services, virtually coffee and chat meetings via Zoom, yoga sessions, quizzes and online computer training. In addition, videos have been updated to the Council YouTube channel specifically for adults with a learning disability who would have previously attended a day centre, which are currently closed during to Covid 19 restrictions.
The change to online provision has helped people to remain connected through the zoom sessions, in some situations people have been able to use direct payments to meet their connection costs. In other examples, people have used their direct payments to employ a personal assistant to go on walks or in some cases to enable them to get out of the house. The Council’s social media platforms are updated daily with information for carers and in addition newsletters and regular briefings are emailed and posted in recognition that not everyone has access information via the internet.
The Head of Service (Mental Health) commented on the positive impact that the different activities have had on the lives of people who have taken part. Tom Denham, Head of Adult Service – Service Provision, presented a PowerPoint presentation. The Head of Service commented that when the Council had to close all of its day services in response to the pandemic it affected over a 120 people. The main priority at the time was to support the NHS. The Head of Service commented on the challenge of delivering the service by workers some of whom were shielding because of Covid 19 and the switch to allow services to be delivered online. The Head of Service commented that 35 videos posted online has had about 2000 views.
The panel discussed the questions listed on presentation slide. The panel agreed to consider them further and send their comments to the scrutiny officer.
The panel agreed to note the presentation.