Date: 19th May 2021

Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)

The’ pandemic of loneliness’is spreading, it is evident that more and more people have struggled during the crisis because they have been unable to get out and do the things they once did. They have become more susceptible to isolation and are now finding it difficult to gain the confidence to rebuild their social networks.

Westbank, community health and care charity, is launching a campaign to combat loneliness, across Exeter and the neighbouring communities and is calling on businesses to help.

It is searching for 100 businesses to donate just £500 to help launch a new service aimed at combatting loneliness. The donations will initially fund a one-year project to help people through one-to-one and group support from dedicated staff and volunteers.

Nina Parnell, Westbank Head of Volunteering and Community Support, said, “Loneliness has always been there, but what we have seen over the last 12 months is that more people, young and old, are affected. Loneliness has no boundaries, can affect all walks of life, and have an impact on anyone at any time, sometimes with devastating consequences.”

Our project team will help people like Brian, aged 64, who has anxiety and depression and has spent the last 12 months alone inside his home. He was referred to Westbank by the Community Matron for help to enable him to gain confidence and motivation to take his first step outside after 12 months. With ongoing support and encouragement from a Community Link Worker, Brian gained enough confidence to head out and has re-joined the men’s brunch club.

Brain said “Although anxious, it was so good to see old friends, familiar faces and the friendly team of staff at Westbank. Returning to brunch club was a reassuring experience, and now I’ve been once, I’m beginning to feel like life will get better.”

Brian is just one of the hundreds of people who need our help. Our project team will listen to and help people gain the support they need now, for example, the courage to join an exercise class, confidence to walk into a new social group, or take those first steps back outside. Whatever the barrier is, we will work together to try to overcome it.

Nina continued: “We have seen an increase in the numbers of people directly contacting Westbank for support or being referred into our service by professionals over the last 12 months, and as restrictions ease, those numbers are rising even more. Sadly at a time when people need our help the most, there isn’t the funding available to deliver everything required.”

This is an opportunity for businesses across Exeter and the surrounding areas to leave a lasting legacy. By working together to combat loneliness we can provide support, spread a bit of happiness and hopefully make life a little easier and enjoyable for people in our communities.

For businesses that would like to get involved but don’t have £500 to donate at the moment, we are still grateful for smaller amounts, or we have volunteer opportunities to suit everyone.

For more information about 100 Working Together, business benefits or to make a donation.

Want to hear more about the effects of loneliness and how businesses can help?

Former BBC Spotlight legend Justin Leigh made this special film to introduce you to some of the people who rely on Westbank to help them through their dark days and how the 100 Working Together campaign can and will make a difference.