An innovative buddy project has been created to support individuals with long term conditions to attend community and social activities.
Working closely with the Social Prescribing team at Action Together; Tameside, Oldham and Glossop (TOG) Mind, Diversity Matters North West, and the Learning, Empowerment and Participation (LEAP), the project currently provides around eight trained volunteer buddies who currently support 30 local people – helping them to build their confidence to access activities themselves.
Buddies can work with clients for a morning or afternoon depending on their availability each week for up to three months. The ultimate goal is to promote independence in social integration, reducing loneliness, and isolation.
A Tameside mother of two, who is in her 40s and has no other local family, has recently been referred by her social prescriber to the Buddy Project. She told how she was unable to work due to long term mental and physical health conditions, which left her depressed and anxious. However, since having an "easy-going" buddy to help her attend a social activity in the community each week, her confidence has grown.
She said: "I never left house, was isolated, had no social life and didn't look forward to anything. I have thoroughly enjoyed having a buddy who has helped me to engage with other people and I look forward to the activity. I'm even talking about volunteering at my chosen activity when I finish my time with the Buddy Project.
"The experience has made a positive impact on my life. I'm now able to leave the house and interact with others. I'm learning new skills, growing in confidence and feel happier."
Tameside Council's Executive Leader, Cllr Brenda Warrington, explained:
"The Buddy Project is clearly a vital support mechanism for those in our community who are experiencing a lack of confidence and social isolation due to mental and physical health conditions.
"I'm delighted to hear about the project's success and the positive impact it is having on those much in need of support, enabling people to leave their home to get involved in our community as well as helping people to feel much better about themselves."
Anyone who feels they could benefit from having a buddy due to a lack of confidence, or has recently moved into the area, is experiencing loneliness and isolation or has experienced recent loss of someone, can be referred from all agencies or self-refer, subject to an eligibility assessment before they're accepted on to the project. For further information about how to refer someone, how to access the service or how to become a volunteer buddy visit TOG Mind's website at https://www.togmind.org/buddy-project