RAY launches project tackling social isolation in Doncaster area

Rural Action Yorkshire has launched a new scheme which will look at the social issues facing older and vulnerable people across the Doncaster area and seek novel ways of addressing them. Tackling the problems of digital exclusion and social isolation in particular, the scheme will operate in both rural and urban areas and utilise tablets and app technology as potential means of relieving such issues.

The Doncaster Community Connect project is being funded by Doncaster Borough Council and Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, and will be delivered by Rural Action Yorkshire in partnership with the People Focussed Group (PFG). Its main purpose will be to test new ways of supporting older, isolated and vulnerable people living in the Intake, Braithwell, Old Edlington, Micklebring, and Stainton areas of Doncaster.

A key part of the scheme is the appointment of two ‘Community Agents’ who are tasked with identifying and alleviating individual cases of loneliness and exclusion across the geographic areas. The adoption of ‘agents’ is a technique that is currently being rolled out across parts of the UK in an effort to combat public funding cuts and meet the challenge of an ageing and under-represented population. The agents will provide face-to-face and outreach support and signposting to other agencies where appropriate.

For the area of Intake, agent Jan Milner will be operating in close partnership with PFG and other local organisations to look at urban isolation and its effects. Her career background is in the care sector and she is heavily involved with her community, ladies football and mental health engagement.

Meanwhile across the more rural areas of Doncaster, agent Sharon Middling will be the go-to person for all aspects of the project. Her experience is also in the care sector and she maintains a keen interest in academic research in this area, and in how services for older and vulnerable people can continually be improved.

Increased digital inclusion will be achieved through the innovative use of technology. The project will develop a new app which will work to connect service users to their wider community and enable regular contact with the community agents.

Doncaster Community Connect Project Co-Ordinator, Wayne Munro-Smith, says, “The app will be user-friendly easy to use to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Initially a small group of older people will test out the app, with the project providing internet connections and fully-funded tablets to use. In the long run, it is hoped that not only will this app enable people to stay in their own homes for longer, but it will encourage the learning of new skills and the reduction in feelings of loneliness and isolation in later life. It could bring new vigour and hope to those most at risk of exclusion in Doncaster.”

Wayne and his team are keen to hear from other organisations in Doncaster, or anyone that would be interested in volunteering to help connect the project with people at risk of isolation. Donations of old and unwanted tablets and iPads are being encouraged as this will go towards enabling more vulnerable people to benefit from the app.

You can read more about the Doncaster Community Connect Project on its Project Page, where you will also find contact details for Wayne and the team.