Pub is The Hub’s Ambassador for Loneliness for its new ‘Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness’ campaign, Deborah Kemp, together with its regional advisors, offer ideas for publicans on keeping locals connected through community events and activities during Covid-19 tier restrictions, lockdowns and beyond.
Loneliness has become a major issue for society that has been exacerbated further by the Covid-19 pandemic, a crisis which has highlighted the importance of meaningful connections for us all.
Simple behaviours and small actions by publicans in being connected with their surrounding community can make a big difference to local people who may be experiencing feelings of loneliness. It is an issue that affects people of any age and for many different reasons, so we are inviting publicans to ‘Join Inn’ and think about what more they can possibly initiate or continue to do to help.
- Community chat lines: encourage volunteers in your local community to set up a ‘Good to Talk’ network where volunteers call those who are most vulnerable and socially isolated, including elderly people living on their own, for a chat to check in on them and help keep their spirits up.
Research by Age UK predicts the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6, a 49% increase in ten years. But these type of support schemes don’t just benefit those being helped, but also volunteers, with new research by the Campaign to End Loneliness highlighting that volunteers involved in schemes supporting older people in reconnecting with their local community also see a 30% improvement in their own mental wellbeing.
Conversation starter resource
The Jo Cox Foundation’s ‘Great Winter Get Together’ campaign has produced a conversation menu which would be useful for helpline volunteers as well as when you can get community coffee mornings/meals and clubs running again: www.greatgettogether.org/winter_get_together
Put up posters outside your pub and around your community, and post videos and images on social media about what support services are available. It is also key to put a letter or postcard through the doors of local residents sharing what activities or groups are available, as some people may not be on social media or leaving home. Look to include a call to action for anyone able to check in on their neighbours and make sure they are okay, which can help create an extended network of connection and support for vulnerable people. For resources on setting up a group see here: Local Group Resources – Covid-19 Mutual Aid (covidmutualaid.org)
- Help elderly connect online: help support elderly people with video calling to loved ones. Seeing the faces of their family and friends will be a big boost to them and being able to talk face-to face can sometimes feel easier and more natural. You could also look to run a local community appeal to provide elderly people living alone who don’t have mobile phones, with new phones and chargers, along with support to help explain how to use it.
Another idea to consider is putting in a digital hub, such as the Polgooth Inn, near St Austell, Cornwall, who with the support of a Pub is The Hub Community Services Fund grant are offering IT facilities that some people don’t have at home, such as lap tops and printers. The digital hub also gives people a focus to come to the pub and meet others. Find out more here: www.pubisthehub.org.uk/case-study/polgooth-inn-polgooth-cornwall/
For people who are digitally savvy you could share, through your social media channels, resources such as virtual village hall, run by the Royal Voluntary Service, who host a range of weekly online activities such as windowsill gardening sessions, making Christmas decorations and poetry reading.
- Physical not ‘social’ distancing: it is easy to check on those in your community without physical proximity or contact. Encourage locals to write postcards with cheery messages or engage local artists and children to draw pictures which can be shared with people at risk of social isolation and loneliness.
You could also encourage volunteers to leave small token gifts, such as cakes, plants or hand creams, on peoples’ doorsteps to help put smiles on their faces.
‘Mince Pie Moments’
Encourage volunteers to have ‘Mince Pie Moments’ with people, a campaign set up by the Jo Cox Foundation’s ‘Great Get Together’ initiative, where a mince pie is left on a doorstep and then knock on peoples’ doors to have a quick chat with them. Find more information on this campaign, including useful resources, here: www.greatgettogether.org/mince-pie-moments-resources/
- Drive festive connection: an idea to get people out of their houses and connecting is encouraging local people to take part in the worldwide Christmas Eve Jingle event, where people are invited to stand outside their houses and spread some festive cheer by ringing a bell together at 6pm on Christmas Eve. For more info click here.
Publicans could lead the way from their pub by doing a Facebook Live from outside their pub, or inside ringing the pub’s bell.
- Feeding the soul: if there isn’t already a ‘Meals on Wheels’ service in your local area, consider your pub working with other community organisations or local council, such as The Lodge at North Tuddenham, Norfolk. The pub has worked in partnership with Dareham Cares to deliver groceries to the doors of vulnerable residents, who benefit from crucial regular contact with volunteers. The Bevy in Brighton, East Sussex, also offers meals on wheels to support both the elderly and vulnerable families in need of support.
Let people know you care
Helen Jones, general manager of The Bevy and co-ordinator of Bevy Meals on Wheels, says: “As we continue to live in very uncertain times, we’re making social contact at a safe distance and finding out what people need as well as providing a little bit of structure and connection to the outside world and letting people know that they are cared about.”
When not under tier restrictions, The Bevy works with other local organisations to host weekly lunch clubs and social groups for local seniors.
- Be a pop-up publican: if you and your team are delivering groceries or meals to elderly or vulnerable people yourself take along a bar stool to take a seat on their path and have a quick chat with them from their front door. You could also take a pint or treat out to people who live alone on their birthday.
- Engage help for your pub’s store: research by the Campaign to End Loneliness  highlights that loneliness can be experienced at any age and by any member of society.
Look to recruit volunteers of all ages who aren’t in high risk Covid-19 groups, (perhaps those who are looking for a positive focus whilst job hunting), to help support your pub’s store by assisting with taking phone orders, replenishing shelves or deliveries of food boxes or meals. This may not only help provide services for longer periods, but also gives volunteers a great focus and interaction with others.
-  Age UK 2018, ‘All The Lonely People’ https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/loneliness/loneliness-report_final_2409.pdf
- 2/3Campaign to End Loneliness Guide October 2020: Promising Approaches Revisited – Effective Action on Loneliness in Later Life – https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/promising-approaches-revisited/