Anglesey support service for lonely people wins major award

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An innovative project which has helped over 200 lonely and isolated people on Anglesey to make friends and build a support network has won a coveted award.

County Voluntary Council Medrwn Môn only appointed its first Local Asset Coordinators (LACs) last year to work with lonely residents aged 18 and over to support their reintegration into society.

In its first year of operation, more than 200 people were referred to the service by GPs, North Wales Police, social workers, community mental health teams, physiotherapists and third sector organisations.

With new partners including North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Welsh Ambulance Service coming on-board, the number of referrals is expected to soar over the next 12 months.

After being nominated by Detective Chief Inspector Helen Douglas of North Wales Police, it has received the Early Intervention Award for Resilience Building in North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones’ annual Community Awards event at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

Mr Jones said: “The response to this initiative by Medrwn Môn has been quite staggering and shows the extent of the problem of loneliness in our society today.

“Their approach of strengthening individual and community resilience through social interaction resonates with the Wellbeing of Future Generation Act and supports the principles of a public health approach to vulnerability.  Prevention is better than cure as they say.

“In its most basic terms, Medrwn Môn ensure that people get the right help at the right time and in the right place.  That help has led to a reduction in calls to North Wales Police and in demand on other partners.”

The Coordinators identify activities and solutions to help people get involved in community life so they no longer feel excluded or vulnerable and work to create long-term networks of support.

The approach helps the individuals become more self-reliant and helps them manage their lives more effectively and reduces their reliance on frontline services.

With new partners including North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Welsh Ambulance Service coming on-board, the number of referrals is expected to soar over the next 12 months.

Lyndsey Campbell-Williams, Medrwn Môn’s project lead for social prescribing, said: “It was a bit of a shock as we had no idea we had been nominated but we are really pleased we have this recognition for our community scheme.

“It’s nice that the Commissioner sees the value in our work, especially in the joint-working approach. It’s very much a team effort. We are making a big difference and we can see it in the results already coming through.

“However, we wouldn’t have got where we are without the support of our partners. The support we have received from the Police in evaluating our services has been a great help and it has definitely lifted our profile.”

The service, which receives funding from the Integrated Care Fund from Anglesey County Council as well as the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and GP Clusters, is a new social prescription project which is an alternative to the traditional type of prescriptions offered by GPs or Social Services.

“We have eight Local Asset Coordinators, including two new ones, and they go out into the community to see what’s around for people, following referrals from GPs, the police or even from friends and family members,” explained Lyndsey.

“People who are lonely or isolated are generally cut off from their communities. Our LACs go out to see them to provide support so that they look to their local neighbourhood for solutions.

“Linking people back to their community activities is a way of taking them away from frontline services.

“It might be arranging a regular walk with a neighbour rather than engaging in a specific activity. It’s about creating support within the local neighbourhood which is more long-lasting.”

Each LAC is based in or around a GP surgery or community hub and the approach of strengthening individual and community resilience supports Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generation Act and a public health approach to vulnerability.

The service was invited to join North Wales Police’s Implementation Group as part of the Early Action Together Programme – a multi-partnership between public health and policing in Wales to address the causes of criminal behaviour and champion preventative approaches to support vulnerable people.

“Policing today is becoming more and more about responding to vulnerable people. They saw our project as an avenue for referring people on to us quite easily,” said Lyndsey.

“Since then, we’ve been going into police stations and working with PCSOs to help them think differently about the people that they meet through their jobs.”

Medrwn Môn has ensured that people get the right help at the right time and in the right place and as a result this has led to a reduction in calls to North Wales Police and other frontline partners

The scheme has been so successful, further funding has been recently secured to recruit two family LACs to work with young people under the age of 18.