22 November 2021

In April 2021, CNWL formed a partnership with the Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea (KCW) branches of Age UK. Together, they set up the KCW Social Isolation & Digital Inclusion pilot which supports and enhances CNWL’s existing Older Adult Mental Health services, delivering targeted outreach support to vulnerable elderly people, including those living alone who are more likely to experience social isolation.

Our Trust Community Partnerships and Engagement Team, based in our central London mental health division (Jameson), has been working closely with various services. The team explores opportunities for partnering up with community groups and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations to inform our service delivery and improve people’s experiences.

Six months on, the pilot has shown very promising results delivering 174 one-on-one sessions in total. Ann Sheridan, Managing Director for Jameson Division, said: “this project has shown the power in partnership working. I am pleased that we can support our clients to stay connected with their loved ones and their local community.”

What is Age UK?

The country’s leading charity in supporting older adults at the most vulnerable stage of their lives. Age UK offers support such as:

  • Information on rights and financial difficulties
  • Health and Social Care
  • Emotional wellbeing support to tackle loneliness and promote an active engagement in hobbies
  • Leading campaigns and research into issues affecting older adults

How does the pilot work?

The digital inclusion pilot has supported patients in Older Adult Services to access digital equipment and platforms, increasing their social interactions within the community. The support is person-centred and one-on-one, driven by what the client specifically needs to learn. This could include support with video calling, online shopping, use of email, social media, making video calls, browsing the internet, or even an online hobby. The project team maintains open channels of communication with referrers on everything from a client’s preferred contact times to tips on specific areas of support.

Case Study

One of the clients, referred to the service, had been self-isolating since the start of the pandemic and sadly lost her husband due to Covid-19. She was suffering from anxiety and feeling very lonely so she thought that digital inclusion would help her connect more with her family. In the first couple of weeks, the team supported the client to set up a new mobile phone, send text messages, make video calls over WhatsApp and take photos.

Whilst having a conversation with the coordinator about other services that Age UK provides, she showed interest in the Befriending service which arranges for isolated people to be visited once or twice a week for anything from a cup of tea to a trip to the theatre. She has now been referred to the Befriending service in Westminster and eventually hopes to become a befriender herself.

More Feedback from Clients

  • “I’m delighted to learn so much and now I can do lots of things with my iPhone, using it much better than before”
  • “The service is fantastic. It helped me regain my balance. I’m now regarding my computer in a friendlier way… I would like to stay as long as I’m eligible to this service. It really helped to retain my mental balance.”
  • “Everything is good. I’m learning though it is slow. Now I know how to send messages to my sister and [I’m] now learning how to use the keyboard on my iPad.”

Rouba Sayed, Digital Inclusion Project Manager at K&C Age UK, says: “it has been so rewarding to hear service users speak about their positive experiences with this pilot and their feedback gives real life to our work with CNWL. It gives me great pleasure to know that our digital skills training is effecting meaningful change, helping older people to feel less socially isolated.”

Next steps and reflections

The team is now focusing on raising awareness about scams and security concerns that clients might have. They will also be looking for more referrals and opportunities to open up the pilot to more of CNWL’s services.

Tariro Gumbo, Senior Community Partnerships and Engagement Lead, said: “leading this project has been hugely fulfilling. A massive thank you to AgeUK and my CNWL colleagues from the Older Adult Mental Health Services for such commitment and togetherness. Our collective efforts have seen some of our most vulnerable being empowered to stay connected and supported beyond discharge.”