The event involved 54 people from 17 organisations who volunteered their time and knocked on more than 1,000 doors in the Downham area. It was led by Community Connections Lewisham – a ‘social prescribing’ service, supporting anyone living in the borough (aged 18+) who is looking for help to improve their health and wellbeing. The volunteers set out to ask local people what they would like to see in their area, what barriers there are to engaging with community activities, and what they would like to see in Downham, such as more provision for children.
A partnership work model was used that was originally pioneered by Age UK Wirral, with the aim of proactively approaching people in their homes. It was assumed that many of the residents who may not know what services are available, may not have accessed anything before or considered going to a group, and in particular may be experiencing social isolation.
North Downham was chosen as the area to survey by consulting local groups. Phoenix Housing’s Resident Survey and Age UK’s isolation heat map point to the area as at very high risk of social isolation, as well as scoring highly on several other indices of deprivation. Downham is often overlooked, has relatively low levels of education achievement and high levels of unemployment, going back generations.
The geographic layout is such it has relatively few natural places or town centres where people can meet. There are also relatively few community groups and formal volunteering – for example during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lewisham Practical Assistance scheme had 65 volunteers but none from Downham.
A week prior to the Door Knock, GoodGym volunteers dropped 1,000 leaflets through letterboxes to let the residents know about the initiative.
An adapted survey was also sent to residents of Downham outside of the survey’s catchment to gather their thoughts. One hundred and fifty-two conversations were had at the doors on the day, and 60 residents responded to the online survey.
The submitted webforms were exported to Excel, anonymised, and coded into themes and subthemes for each question looking at topics around social isolation. Each theme was then quantified to establish what were the most frequent topics that were brought up by Downham residents.
Erfan Kidia, the ICS Assistant Director of Medicines Optimisation (Lewisham), said: “The data could be built upon to further engage these residents, who are now aware of local activities and may need more encouragement to join in.
“The residents have given a strong indication of what they want to see more of, and participate more in.
“The information collected, and the conclusions reached – including the anonymised raw data – and can be used to enable further strategic work by all including Lewisham Health and Care Partners.”
Organisations participating in the Downham Door Knock included:
Age UK Lewisham and Southwark, Brighter Horizons, Brook Lane Church, Community Connections, Community Falls Team, Downham Community Land Trust, Downham Seventh Day Adventists, Enable, Goldsmiths Community Centre, Grow Lewisham, GoodGym, Humankind, South East London ICB – Lewisham Medicines Optimisation Team, King’s Church, Lewisham Council, Lewisham Council Voluntary Sector Team, Lewisham Local, METRO, Phoenix, SELCE, and Sevenfields PC.