Rolling out the 'big tent' to help East Devon

Budleigh Hub has been rebranded to Seachange

Seachange, in Budleigh Salterton - Credit: Seachange

I’ve been running Seachange for nearly four years.

In that time, I have learnt a thing or two about loneliness, isolation and community inclusion.

We have run many projects and initiatives to bring people together to reduce their seclusion and make them feel happier. This happiness directly translates into them being healthier.

Happier people visit their GP less, have fewer long-term health conditions which ultimately saves the NHS and us money.

Yet, despite all our knowledge we still have isolated and lonely people in our community. Why? Because we can’t solve it on our own.

Loneliness is a community issue and it takes a community to come together, acknowledge the problem and put effective actions in place to resolve it.

In the summer we will be making a conscious effort to do exactly that.

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Starting small and learning lessons, the ‘Big Tent’ will be rolled out across other areas in East Devon.

First will be the ‘Budleigh Big Tent’. We will bring together local key organisations, businesses, people, community groups, sports clubs with the aim of identifying gaps in support provision across the generations, young and old, families and individuals, working and retired. The will be given a presentation of the needs in their community.

Through collaborative working these groups and individuals will have solutions. Most solutions will be simple yet hopefully effective.

For example: could a local café or business offer placements for students to gain work experience or volunteering opportunities for the retired; could the cricket club reach out to the youth club and actively encourage discounted membership; could the crochet club allow families on the premises to allow single parents to meet outdoors? Local first aid training business Action for Life recently offered free first aid training for grandparents so they could manage a medical issue with grandchildren. Brilliant.

These are very simplistic ideas, we hope there will be others. It may push some to feel out of their comfort zone but for the good of all we need not only to think differently but act differently.

We need to stop thinking selfishly about ‘our golf club’ or ‘our business’ and try and include others to enjoy the benefits. Ultimately, this will benefit us all.