Connecting communities to tackle isolation

Focus on Wellbeing Exeter

The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is a key partner in our Integrated Care System. Each month, this feature highlights work by a VCSE organisation operating in partnership with local health and care services to help local people.

Here, we highlight how Community Connectors from Wellbeing Exeter help people who have become isolated or disconnected from their support networks while going through a major life event like divorce, bereavement, retirement or moving to a new area.

Wellbeing Exeter, a partnership of 10 voluntary and community sector organisations, offers Community Connectors, who work with adults, families and children aged 11 and over. Community Connectors have knowledge of a wide range of local opportunities and are able to help connect people to what works for them, working alongside people to identify solutions to the barriers they might face.

This has been particularly important following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. “Some people have become very isolated as a result and are anxious about getting out and socialising again,” said Eleanor Tomlinson, Wellbeing Exeter’s Programme Development Manager.  “Connectors help people to identify the things they would like to change or get involved in and to connect with other people locally.  It might involve identifying a social group or club they would enjoy and attending with them initially to help them settle in.”

In an average year, 900-1,000 people are referred for their support from primary care, schools and colleges and social care across the city.

Meanwhile, the partnership also has a team of 13 Community Builders who are experts in their local communities. They work closely with residents to understand what they think of their neighbourhood, what they would like to be involved in and to support them to take action over the things that are important to them. This could be connecting people with a shared interest and supporting them with funding, finding a venue or promoting an idea. It could also involve matching people with different skills to one another or to organisations and services to help an idea develop.

While the Covid-19 pandemic brought some elements of Wellbeing Exeter’s work to a standstill, they were able to support the cross-city community response in partnership with Exeter City Council and other partners. Community Connectors continued to support people with wellbeing phone calls and the Community Builders worked behind the scenes to match people needing support with local volunteers and services.

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