Tackling the wider impact of Covid-19

A sign prohibits entry to a footpath because of the pandemic

Monty Meth from Enfield Over 50s Forum on a new project to help address the fallout from the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is causing not only record death rates and pressure on our hospitals, but also unprecedented demands on Enfield GPs tackling the fallout from Covid-19 among older people – loneliness, depression, isolation, stress and anxiety.

I’ve spoken to one local GP about this, who told me: “In the third lockdown we are seeing more older people than ever before and having more and more mental health consultations, resulting from increased social isolation. Patients with a mix of financial problems and increased deprivation are of particular concern.

“We are also seeing elderly patients with significant digital isolation, not being able to contact their GP practices, the NHS and other services, and this is both causing and adding to their depression.”

Fortunately, Enfield Over 50s Forum has recently won a £9,600 National Lottery grant to help tackle loneliness and help bring people back into the community. The forum will be battling on three fronts to involve people aged 65 and over living alone; low-income pensioners over 75 without a free TV licence; and lastly people over 50 seeking help with their CV to find work, or anyone needing help in applying for Universal Credit.

We are hoping that Dispatch readers, with their special links in the community, will spread news of these initiatives so that people feel there is no need to be old and lonely in Enfield. Our membership secretary Jan Oliver, who applied for the lottery grant, is planning a unique public display of artistic items created at home by older isolated people around the themes of hope and despair. These can be poems, a song, painting or photograph, a video, woodwork, knitting, a cake, or anything else you can think of.

“It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece,” says Jan. “Hopefully this special lockdown display will go on public view in June, or when the good times return.”

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To help combat loneliness, the forum will also launch a telephone friendship group, provide mobile phones to our most vulnerable members, enabling them to have safe contact while chatting with self-isolating friends.

Jan explains: “We shall ensure that those most at risk from isolation are involved – people living alone over the age of 65, black, Asian and minority ethnic community members, and we’ll also be inviting residents from 24 Enfield care homes to participate.”

The forum will be encouraging more low-income pensioners aged over 75 to apply for a free TV licence. Jan adds: “With 1.3 million pensioners aged over 75 still not applying for the pension credit entitlement to a free TV licence – at least 400 of them Enfield residents – the forum sees this as another campaign helping to reduce loneliness among older people.”

When we applied for the lottery grant, I wondered what the government was doing at a local level to help prevent this deterioration in people’s health. There have been three ministers for loneliness since the first was appointed in April 2018 and the current post holder, Baroness Diana Barran, a former investment banker, has managed to find a trifling £5million to tackle loneliness since July 2019. It is being shared among nine organisations – one of them the wealthy English Football League.

So it is largely being left to voluntary sector organisations like Enfield Over 50s Forum to grapple with the mental health outcomes from coronavirus. In a separate project, forum volunteers and a professional job coach will be offering remote support to residents aged over 50 who are seeking employment.

For more information about any of the above projects:
Call 020 8807 2076 (Monday-Thursday, 10am-2pm)
Visit enfieldover50sforum.org.uk

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