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Supporting better health and wellbeing.

Through grants and Community Investment we are delivering a wide range of activities to support health and wellbeing. 

Our National Befriending Service provides telephone support to over 230 customers who receive weekly support on issues ranging from mental health issues to loneliness. Customers are also signposted to support services ranging from local charities to local authority specialist teams.

One of the ways we support healthy living is through our leisure centres which deliver social prescriptions and teach over 80,000 children to swim a week.The Group is helping to respond to these challenges through our leisure centres which deliver social prescriptions and teach over 80,000 children to swim a week.

Young Children Running Around Football Court
Shape Lancashire Befriending Service – SHAPE LINC LINE

“We know that no matter how simple it seems, some People just need to hear a friendly voice at the end of a phone” – Co manager of SHAPE Mandy

Agile organisations across the UK have been forced to adapt their operations during the pandemic and SHAPE Linc Line Lancashire has done just that. In fact, the programme has been so successful in finding new ways to support Customers and local Communities, that Places for People is now investing further; the programme is currently being rolled out to other Communities across the country. 

The service is a vital initiative that has been transforming the lives of Places for People Customers by offering a face-to-face service which helped prevent loneliness. But when the pandemic hit earlier this year, the initiative was stalled, with vulnerable people who required support to feel connected to the outside world suddenly cut off.

Headed up by Kate Eastwood and Mandy Foster at Shape Lancashire, the service now offers phone call to check on Customers’ wellbeing. “Pre-Covid, we visited vulnerable Customers in their homes,” explains Kate. “But that obviously couldn't go ahead in lockdown.” The result? The quick-thinking volunteers at the helm of SHAPE LINC LINE adapted operations to become a telephone service, its new name an acronym for ‘Linking Into Neighbourhoods and Communities’. 

Kate explains how they adapted:

“The process now sees our team call to check if there’s anything a Customer needs. That could simply be helping them arrange an online grocery shop, a repeat prescription or even just to offer a friendly ear in times of isolation. Now with the Places for People funding that’s been so kindly donated this year, we also have the capacity to make repeat phone calls which help our team make better connections – befriending customers and making them feel connected.”

The Places for People funding means this new initiative is protecting more People from loneliness and isolation. The initial circa £30,000 investment by the Places for People Community Investment Fund helped the Befriending Service team’s initially reach out to up to 200 people per week. In November 2020, Places for People extended support for a further six months meaning that number could be increased to up to 400 vulnerable People who all now benefit from weekly phone calls – a lifeline during these unprecedented times.  

Before the constraints of Covid 19, the Shape Lancashire team had rolled out across the county and committed to helping residents including those at Hornby Court in Blackburn – a Community of 44 self-contained apartments for independent living for the over 55’s. The team was due to host a programme of fun activities such as cooking classes, visits to local Bury market and residents’ celebrations together. Unfortunately, the plans had to be cancelled due to lockdown but instead of postponing – the original funding was re-allocated to the team for befriending phone calls throughout Lancashire. 

The team has also supported more acute cases, as Mandy explains: “Sadly this year one resident at Hornby Court passed away, but his accommodation has in turn potentially saved a life. One gentleman we reached out to, Ian, has transformed his life thanks to support and correct sign posting. 

“Ian, who is 59, had lived between hostels and on the streets for over 20 years – in which time he struggled with alcohol and substance dependency. With funding from the council to help with his dependency, to provide a furnished flat, and with food provided via Ivy Street foodbank and support counselling via InSpire – Ian told us he’s never slept so well since moving into Hornby Court! 

“To top it off – due to the turnaround in his life, Ian has also reduced his medication for anxiety and depression and found a new lease of life in his new Community. He’s been introduced to people within Hornby Court, with one lovely lady giving him a fridge and another gentleman donating a cutlery set to help Ian get set up!”

Latif Patel, Place Manager at Places for People who has been involved in the programme, concludes: “The difference this service has made to our Customers’ wellbeing is humbling. 

“Human interaction is so important, and we’re overwhelmed by the success of the programme and the fabulous work Kate, Mandy and their team do. I know they’ve made great friends with some of our residents and have even held singsongs down the phone! Whether it be handholding, booking of doctors’ appointments or literally being the very first person who encourages someone to change and start afresh – I genuinely believe this service is priceless and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming success stories as we continue to fund well into 2021.”

Tiny Tablets - Nationwide

Digital inclusion has never been so important, with the pandemic forcing people to adapt how they interact with each other. Through personal and professional endeavours, the use of tech has never been so important, but with digital exclusion still prevalent Places for People felt compelled to act this year to help older people stay in touch during lockdown.

Living Plus, part of Places for People (PFP) proactively initiated a programme to combat this ongoing issue for its Retirement Living customers via a nationwide scheme – the Tiny Tablet Project.  Far from being small a Tiny Tablet is an interactive touch table that is used in the same way as a smart phone or tablet, but the device is much bigger with a 32-inch screen. It can be wheeled around, and it’s much more user friendly for our Retirement Living Customers. The tablets feature numerous apps which provide sensory and learning opportunities to encourage the user to maintain focus which in turn stimulates the brain.

The project lead Bobby Colcombe, Digital and Social Media Co-ordinator for Affordable Housing at Places for People highlighted importance of the project:

“You hear stories about digital exclusion, and you assume it’s just about preventing loneliness and keeping older people connected, but it really is so much more than that!”

Bobby felt “The pandemic was really concerning from those without access to the internet. This cohort of People are vulnerable, worried about going to the shop, but equally can’t use the convenience that online has to offer – simple day to day tasks such as grocery shopping, attending healthcare appointments and accessing banking services – with three times more 70-year-olds registered for online banking than this time last year. We had to step in and help; we had to ensure that vulnerable, older members of society are not excluded from this digital shift.”

“Initially we focused on helping our Customers navigate the tablets by using game apps, entertainment streaming services such as Netflix and brain training exercises – which are especially helpful for those suffering early onset dementia. We also had to overcome the stigma of the internet being dangerous as many of our Customers didn’t trust apps – especially anything to do with online banking or paying for goods online using their bank cards.

Loneliness and social isolation exasperated by lockdowns are a growing concern in the Living Plus Retirement Living Communities, but due to the £14,000 funding from the PFP Places Impact Fund, two Tiny Tablets have been purchased to combat this.

As restrictions continue and society has been in and out of lockdowns for the past 12 months, residents have lost confidence and become digitally disengaged. Thanks to the funding for the Tiny Tablets, Living Plus staff, whilst strictly adhering to guidelines, have been able to assist residents with one-to-one sessions and encourage communication with family and friends.

Customers are already reporting positive reviews and experiencing a better quality of life thanks to the project. One resident in Newcastle who was allocated a Tiny Tablet said: “I wear glasses and would struggle to see a tiny phone screen, so the size of the tablet means I don’t need to squint.

“I’m really enjoying playing the games and they certainly keep my mind active as we don’t really have much to do at the moment in lockdown. I’m really looking forward to when we can share the tablets in groups – I’ll be showing everyone what I’ve learnt and obviously winning at the games I’ve now mastered!”

Not only have Customers enjoyed playing games, but they’ve embraced using the Tiny Tablets to access online services and communicate with family and friends via video conferencing services such as Zoom and by email. The Tiny Tablets are encouraging a better quality of life, which in turn reduces levels of anxiety and depression.

Bobby continued: “Once restrictions ease, the Tiny Tablet projects’ main aim will be to improve the quality of life of our elderly and extra care Customers by bringing Customers together to take part in a shared project, embracing new technology together and helping to improve their mental stimulation. As well as introducing numerous subjects to Customers who may not have prior knowledge but would be able to share experiences with their neighbours as part of the project.

East End United Sports Club (EEUSC)

The East End United Sports Club (EEUSC) is a safe haven for young people in Tower Hamlets, London. With a schedule of sports and life skills training, the club empowers its members. 

Threatened by the social and economic impact of the pandemic, Places for People threw its support behind EEUSC this year. The club is close to Lewey House – a Places for People development in the local area – and this year, the company helped raise £10,000 of funds to ensure that no customers would have to pay for their child to attend EEUSC’s summer course. 

EEUSC is a much-needed facility in this community; Tower Hamlets is a borough in which struggles with poverty and inequality issues are commonplace. Tower Hamlets’ child poverty rate is the highest in London, with 57% of children living in households in poverty. 

Enus Ali is an inspiring and active member of this community, trying to bring about change by helping local young people. In 2020, Enus helped pitch the idea of a summer club to EEUSC which would provide a fun and engaging training programme for kids aged between 5 and 15. 

Enus’ vision was for a Covid-safe, one-month long programme which would improve the lives of several children suffering from ongoing social, educational and physical exclusion. He explains: “2020 brought added pain to many young people already struggling in life. It was our intention to create something which would give them a focus over the summer, re-engaging them post lockdown and giving them a chance to socialise safely.” 

The Places for People team was fully on board with Enus’ programme and stepped in to support it. £5,000 was raised through the company’s Community Investment Fund, with local match-funding taking the total raised to £10,000. The money ensured that no PFP customer living in Lewey House would have to pay for their child to attend the summer course. 

Enus continues: “The programme was fundamental to this area – where the children living in high rise housing were struggling due to the effects of little or no education – something compounded by the pandemic. We had concerns about their mental health and wellbeing and I’m just so pleased that our EEUSC summer course made a difference.” 

Places for People’s funding came alongside other forms of support, as project coordinator Tony Hennon adds: “We wanted to do something positive to give young people here new opportunities and support during extremely tough times; that’s why we had to step in and support the EEUSC, both financially and pastorally.

“Families in Lewey House were struggling with uncertain furlough, job losses, home schooling and a real lack of outdoor space to escape to. These children are a resilient bunch but you can only take so much – they needed something to stay fit, socialise and keep them safely away from any anti-social distractions. 

“The funding ensured the children could do things they’d otherwise not have the chance to experience, such as crazy golf sessions, an extremely popular visit to the zoo and playing organised and coached football matches with their mates.”

The month-long provision of extra-curricular activities proved to be integral for this area – it supported neighbourhood sustainability and helped facilitate in building cohesive, successful and positive community spirit. The project also gave children and young people in the neighbourhood the chance to play out in the fresh air, to be physically active and to socialise with friends and peers. 

The project also embraced diversity and inclusion which encourages a sustainable community – the programme provided access to children and young people from all backgrounds and differences including age, disabilities, ethnicities, religion and gender – everyone had to right to play and be included. 

“Following the course, we received many letters from the children,” continues Tony, “They thanked us and the team at EEUSC for the opportunities they’d received. One heart-warming note from participant, Muhammed, said: “I haven’t been good at football, but I’ve learnt skills to help me improve and I’ve become better all thanks to the help and support of my coach. Football isn’t about winning, it’s about taking part, being a team player and enjoying myself. When I grow up I want to be a footballer. Man United here I come!”

Another participant made a large poster with cut-out letters stuck down to spell out the words Thank you Places for People; “That was the best thank you note I’ve ever received!” adds Tony. 

Following on from the success of the summer programme, EEUSC has now secured further PFP Community Investment Funding for more activities due to commence in January 2021. With a further £10k fund pot the EEUSC are currently planning the activities that will be available to the local youngsters – of which football and badminton will be included. 

Tony concludes: “I’m so pleased that the community will benefit from another programme next year – it’s an ongoing commitment to our PFP customers. The increase in positivity in the area is visible. To say 2020 has been a tough year is an understatement, but I hope programmes like this encourage everyone to keep focused, positive and work together to make 2021 a much brighter year for all.”

The East End United Sports Club is just one of the many community projects PFP’s Community Investment Fund supports, to find out more about all the work the team does.

Embracing the use of VR to support residents living with dementia

A further initiative was implemented in Autumn 2019, with the support of the Places Foundation fund, we launched a new programme using virtual reality (VR). Known as Virtual Places, it combats isolation on two fronts – primarily using new technology to help residents across the East Midlands to access places they can no longer physically visit, as well as helping them to make new friends within their community.

The initiative is also embracing the use of VR to support its residents living with dementia. VR used alongside traditional reminiscence therapy which focuses on using all the senses – sight, touch, smell, sound and taste – is proving a very effective treatment. Using VR can help individuals with dementia remember People, places and events from their past – ultimately helping with the recall of memories which can provide comfort and a connection to their history.

The health and wellbeing of over 200 People who are now engaged every month has dramatically improved and by using VR to see the world – something which has improved mental wellbeing and has tackled social isolation during these lockdown eras. 

We launched a new virtual reality experience for its older customers in a bid to support good mental health and reduce social isolation.

The project, which is being supported by a grant from social value investment charity Places Foundation, is being piloted throughout October before being rolled out to retirement living schemes across other operating area.

Virtual reality technology has been around for several years, but new lightweight untethered headsets are making the experience more accessible and comfortable for users. The headsets, which allow wearers to view 360 degree video and digital environments, are particularly useful for those suffering from dementia or mobility related illnesses.

Each session will be tailored for those Customers attending - with the overall aim to provide relaxation, stimulate memories, or take part in experiences that health conditions would not normally allow.

Mitch Allseybrook, Customer Engagement Manager at Places for People said: “We’re piloting the programme as part of national initiative Get Online Week before rolling it out across the Midlands to customers in our retirement living schemes.

“Although people tend to think that Get Online Week is about learning new skills and the benefits of the internet through a browser - there’s much more to it than that. We want to show the value of connected experiences such as virtual reality and the positive effects it can have for Customers.

“Those taking part will be able to select from a menu of options, including sensory walks, visiting art galleries and even taking a guided tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Because we’ll be running the sessions with existing friendship groups, we hope that sharing the experiences with lots of People in a familiar setting will make the technology seem less daunting.”

Group Head of Social Value at Places Foundation Jamie Dickinson said: “A key priority for us is promoting health and wellbeing, and how that can help to reduce social isolation. Innovation is one of our key principles and we want to see new ideas which deliver social change.

“The Virtual Places project is finding new, innovative and cost effective ways to combat some of the challenges older people face. It also provides access to technologies that wouldn’t normally be available in our retirement living accommodation.

“We received a huge number of requests to fund a range of fantastic projects. However due to its innovation and focus this project was successful in securing some of the £100K the charity has awarded in grants this year.