During 2021, Lambeth Together’s Neighbourhood & Wellbeing Delivery Alliance (NWDA) worked with the Hills, Brooks & Dales Primary Care Network (HBD PCN) on a loneliness project to support residents in Herne Hill and Tulse Hill. The aim of the project was to link frail older people experiencing isolation to local community programmes and services, via tailored support from social prescribing link workers based in GP practices in the PCN area.
Being socially isolated can impact on people’s mental wellbeing, with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression being the most common effects. But it has also been linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and a weakened immune system. Social isolation was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with people unable to go out, and many others shielding. Lambeth’s Neighbourhood and Wellbeing Delivery Alliance and HBD PCN recognised the numbers of those suffering from loneliness, social isolation and mental health issues was increasing and more needed to be done to support them.
With funding from Lambeth Council’s mental health promotion and prevention programme, the project established links and developed relationships with grassroots groups to explore how they could work better together to provide support for this vulnerable group.
One of these local projects was the Rose Café, led by Home Instead, who provide community-based care for elderly people living in Lambeth.
Home Instead and the Rose Café
Home Instead’s Sunflower Café has been supporting people with dementia since 2018. The free pop-up café in Streatham is open to the over 65s and those with dementia and their carers, providing a relaxed environment for people to take part in activities and meet others who live locally.
With a growing waiting list of people wanting to attend the Sunflower Café, it became clear that there was a greater need for this type of support locally. So in December 2021, the Rose Café at the Old Library in West Norwood was opened, in partnership with the local PCN and Thriving Hills, Brooks and Dales. This community-led network of local individuals and organisations aims to improve health and wellbeing at neighbourhood level, with a particular emphasis on strengthening or forging new connections between community and health organisations.
Following the success of both cafés, a third café has now opened at King’s College Hospital, in partnership with South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. It is hoped that the Butterfly Café will not only benefit Lambeth residents, but Southwark residents too.
What the cafés have to offer
Kemi Browne, Community Engagement Officer, and the Home Instead team have developed strong relationships with organisations such as Lambeth Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Action and the Norwood Pensioners’ Hub, making it easier to signpost people to activities and support in the local area. Advisers are invited in to give talks on subjects such as managing on a budget or eating well with diabetes, and there’s fun to be had too, with knitting sessions and dementia-friendly film screenings in partnership with the local cinema.
The team has also developed relationships with local professionals, who support with delivering monthly evidence-based dementia-friendly activities, available both in person and online. This includes art and music therapy from professional musicians. All of the activities have been designed with those living with dementia in mind, and are aimed at sustaining and improving their mental and physical health.
The cafés also offer activities to help people get online, provided by the Lambeth Digital Champions Project. There is a plan to provide one to one follow-up support, with issues such as online shopping, accessing GP records and using mobile phones.
Making a difference to the lives of local people
Having small groups means that attendees get to know each other well and are respectful of each other and their needs. Kemi has noticed a positive difference in many of the people who have been attending the café.
“At the beginning, we had guests who were very nervous and very quiet. They didn’t want to do much and didn’t want to socialise. By attending the café, they really have developed their confidence and are taking part in much more of the activities on offer.
The café is giving them the space to feel empowered to try new things, and people have told us that they’ve enjoyed trying different activities that we have signposted through the café. A lot of people feel much happier, which is nice to see.”
Tony, Director at Home Instead for Wandsworth, Lambeth and Dulwich, has also noticed the impact that the café has had on people.
“It’s great because they have that outlet to just come and sit, join in with other people and have a change of scenery. This is something we take for granted. But for elderly people who are feeling isolated, and for people with dementia and their carers especially, this is a really big deal. It can make a huge difference as it really breaks up the monotony of the day.”
And it is not just people with dementia who are benefitting from attending the cafés. Kemi notes that the staff and volunteers at the cafés have also gained.
“Our carers love attending the café. It is a bit different from their day-to-day role of caring for people in their homes. We have people who bring their husband or the person they care for daily, who discover new things they like to do and that they can continue to enjoy at home. It is really helping to support and maintain relationships between carers and the people they care for.”
Norinka attends the Rose Café with her husband Dave and Dave’s sister Pamela, who has special needs. Norinka sometimes feels overwhelmed by caring for them both, but she feels that the Rose Café provides her with respite, as both Dave and Pamela engage well in activities, and she is able to relax more and socialise during sessions.
Norinka, Dave and Pamela attended a party at the Rose Café organised by Kemi and the team for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in the summer of 2022.
“I just wanted to send you a little note to thank you so much for a lovely Jubilee party today. What a lot of work you must have had, but it really was a great success and David and Pamela much enjoyed it. David even got onto the dance floor – which he hasn’t done for months! A huge, big thank you from David, Pamela and me.”
Delivering care in the community
Lambeth’s Rose Café is just one example of the ways in which South East London Integrated Care System is working with local partners and organisations to deliver compassionate, whole person care in local communities.
Amanda Coyle, Programme Director with Lambeth Together’s Neighbourhood and Wellbeing Delivery Alliance, said
“Working in partnership with local communities means that we can build relationships to understand what is important to them, and ensure that we tailor local services to the people who need them. Working across GP practices, community groups and our local council, we have created successful links between people and their neighbourhoods that address the very real problem of social isolation and loneliness among vulnerable older people and their carers.”
To find out more about the South East London Integrated Care System and our priorities, please click here [insert internal link to website]. To find out more about Lambeth Together and the work of the Neighbourhood and Wellbeing Delivery Alliance, go to the Lambeth Together website: www.lambethtogether.net