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Transcript - Tackling Loneliness & Isolation in the Over 55s with Lee, Team Leader at FLU, Episode 6

Updated: Mar 16

Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the Essex unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In this episode we catch-up with Lee from Folk Like Us. Folk Like us is a community project aimed at the over 55s in Southend, helping to tackle loneliness and isolation by providing a variety of different activities, including home visits, supporting individuals to access services and learning new skills. Without further ado, let’s find out more!


Sharen today's guest is Lee from Folk Like Us, also known as the flu project, which is another wonderful project at SAVS, which connects over 55 in Southend. Welcome, Lee.

Lee Well, thank you very much indeed.

Sharen So how would you explain the project to someone?

Lee Okay, so it's aimed at like so The over 50 fives. It's aimed at tackling isolation and loneliness in the age group, getting him connected to services, social activities, meeting new people.

Sharen And why do you think the project is important?

Lee Well, people can be isolated or lonely for various reasons because they've lost partner husband wife etcetera. Sometimes that might not have family living nearby. They might live in an area where there isn't that much in the way of community cohesion. So, can be quite isolated and lonely, not aware of what services and support are out there. Then you know they haven’t got access to things like computers. I.T where they can get this information.

Sharen So who can benefit from the services where do the people of come from. Is it just the area of southend?

Lee It is, yes. Oh, it's specific to the borough of Southend. Pretty much so. People that you know, living within those wards.

Libby How long have you been working on the project? Has it changed much since you started work?

Lee Yes, commenced the project in 2015. So I mean, it has changed because of that project has grown. We've had new staff join us. And because we've been around for quite some time. More and more people are aware of the work that we do, and how we can support people.

Libby Of course

Lee You know, we get quite a lot referrals coming through. You know we have the link workers, who supply us with our referrals, and obviously we’ve gained a couple of allotments as well. With what we deliver it’s almost continuously refreshes.

Libby How did the allotments come to be?

Lee Well, I believe it was through the council, I think, it was that we were made aware that there was an allotment available or or a, you know, a natural plot so we took that one up. And we've done some great work with that. You know, ever since I got a number of our flu members involved, and plenty veg and fruit and they tend to that mostly every Wednesday. And then we've got another allotment up in Edward's Hall in the eastward area of south end.


Sharen So they can access the allotment and they can come into the hub that you've got at SAVS. Do you do anything else?

Lee Yes. Oh, yes, Oh, that The hubs are, you know, the main activity, you know, on a day to day, week to week basis with the one in Shoeburyness, which is 10 to 2. Based in West Road, the one in Central Southend the SAVS building Monday to Friday 10 to 2. Plus we have Connect Events, so that's where we invite all our members to come, enjoy platters of food, have guest speakers come in and chat to them. They have the opportunity to meet new friends meet people. It’s not unknown for them to swap phone numbers, etcetera. They have a raffle as well, so yeah it just gives them something to look forward too. And I think with the last 18 months or so its been quite challenging, you know for them but at least they have something to look ahead and enjoy I suppose.

Libby How did your, um, services change?

Lee Well, the beginning of the pandemic. We're working from home. We're maintaining contact through telephone calls because the restrictions we couldn't carry out any home visits. But as the restrictions eased, we then were able to carry out doorstep visits and as well as the telephone calls. And then when restrictions eased a lot further then we actually carried out visits, so but it was quite challenging. And I know many of the people I spoke to, you know, quite down beat, because you know the missed coming to the HUB, missed out on their friends, although having said that because a number of them had actually swap phone numbers, they actually kept in contact with one another, so they were kind of a lifeline to each other.


Libby I believe you had. Whilst things were easing did you have meetups in parks and things?

Sharen We did. Yes! So at the beginning of this year around the end of March we commenced meetups in a number of the parks, Prittlewell Gardens, Priory Park and Chalkwell Park. So we used those because it depended on where our Flu members lived. So we want wanted somewhere that was accessible for them. That was within a short distance. But the only problem is with that, I don't know if you will remember that the weather was a little bit cold and spring was a bit late in starting. So there was that keen breeze. I mean, they're were a few quite pleasant days which were able to do get people and you know meetup at a safe distance. There was quite a few chilly days.

Libby I bet everyone was very happy to get back in to the hubs.

Lee They were absolutely, way still have some a little bit anxious in coming to the hubs. But But, you know, we're starting to get people coming in.

Sharen And I think I saw some photos of you or your colleague hanging about at a beach hut is that right?

Lee Yeah. Yes. So we had what we affectionately call the Sandy hub because we try to keep that hub theme going. So they commenced from the end of June right through to August so, similar to our hubs cup of tea and chat but with the, you know, with the beach within distance and fresh sea air and that all thrown in they quite enjoyed it really were blessed with some really nice, lovely, beautiful days and umm. You know, they really enjoy that. Hopefully, you know, we'll do the same thing next year.

Libby Sounds great.

Sharen Sounds ideal in the summer.

Sharen So, roughly, how many people do you support?

Lee Gosh, So many changes all the time because we get new referrals, were trying to complete some people that you know, perhaps may not need further support because I've engaged with other services and their life has improved in some way? Some we lose sadly and we've lost of our members during the pandemic. But I think about 115 members. That's that's an estimate. Looks like, you know, changes all the time. Pretty much know all those people would use the services of the HUB because they're not able to access it because, you know, poor mobility. But we make a provision to visit them at home or, you know, carry out welfare checks by phone keeping. Absolutely. So we include everyone you know in our support. Good positive work really could continue forever because there is a definite need for it.

Libby What's your favourite bit about your job?

Lee Just engaging with people, really. You know that's just enjoying Being, you know, in the community seeing what makes the community tick, you know, supporting people, you know, wherever we can. You might have a typical day in the hub where your laughing and joking with some of the members. And then you could get one come straight in through the door in floods of tears. And, you know, you have to kind of change gear I suppose.

Sharen And it's good that you've created that network amongst them as well that I can support each other, like you were saying during Lockdown they kept in contact with each other.

Lee Absolutely. We've got one of our members. It makes curry. I make curry and umm. They've been so supporting other flu members by delivering to them, you know during the pandemic. Another one coming to take another flu member to the hospital. Because he had a health scare and he didn't have anybody else. You know, that could go with him. So she went along and supported him. So you know, it's quite moving. Really. It's nice to see you know how other flu members behave that and support other people and you know carry out acts of kindness.

Sharren So you mentioned that you get referrals for some of the people. But if somebody's listen to this at home and they know somebody or they are somebody who would benefit from the project, how did they get involved?

Lee Yeah, today. Well, I mean, if if they can access, I.T and go on the computer, that can find out a little bit more about the Folk Like Us Project to go to the project's tab, then scroll down. Or they could just simply call us old school on the telephone number. 1702356072 and they can do it that way, Or they can mail the referral to us, you know, or or email. So whatever communication method it's there really pretty much.

Sharen Yeah, that's great. Then once I've made the initial contact there on your records, and then they can access. They can come in and access the HUB if they want to and then obviously in the summer months… be outside with you guys .

Lee Yeah, absolutely. So? So what we'll do is we'll raise a home visit, visit them at home and then just complete a very minimal amount of paper work which doesn't commit them to anything. Service is totally free and then they'll receive invites to come into the HUB If they can connect events and, you know, whatever leader. Whatever member of the team they’re allocated too will keep in regular contact, you know with them. Perhaps carry out home visits as well.

Libby Well, thank you so much for coming in to talk to us today Lee. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

Lee Yes, thank you. And you're very welcoming. Thanks very much. Thank you.


Thanks so much for tuning in, we hope you enjoyed learning about the fab support that Folk Like Us can offer over 55s in Southend. For more information, check out the show notes on our website. You can find us on constellations-podcast.org

Please do share this podcast with anybody you think would enjoy listening - it is the best way to help us grow and carry on sharing the fantastic stories in our communities.

We’ll be back with another episode next Tuesday - until then, take care. Bye!


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