• Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

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Men in a Workshop and housing provider team up to help tackle social isolation

Keith WilkingsonA SOCIAL housing provider that provides homes and services in rural Northumberland is supporting a local charity designed to help older men in the area to learn new skills and tackle social isolation.

Not-for-profit housing provider Four Housing, part of the Bernicia Group, has partnered with the Men in a Workshop project in Wooler to restore five memorial benches which will be installed at its nearby housing development at Horsdonside, which is scheduled for completion later this summer.  Project members will be repairing the benches by sanding and painting or treating them with an oil finish to restore them to their former glory.

The housing provider, which as a group is responsible for 14,000 homes across the North East, is committed to helping to tackle social issues that impact on the communities in which it operates.  Its support of the project coincides with information being released by The King’s Fund which highlights social isolation and loneliness as having as big an impact on health as moderate smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity.  It states that housing associations can play an important role in alleviating social isolation through interventions, such as involvement in community schemes*.

Men in a Workshop launched in 2014 and is operated by the Royal Voluntary Service to offer older men the chance to share, learn and use skills that may otherwise go to waste, while providing an opportunity to meet new people.  Royal Voluntary Service had identified a need for social inclusion with older men in the community, who often find they lose contacts and confidence to do things as they get older.  Activities carried out at the workshop include woodwork and traditional crafts which men often do not have the tools for or environmental space to work in.

Four Housing has previously contributed Community Development funding to provide much needed tools and materials for Men in a Workshop.  Keith Wilkinson clerk of works, said: “We’re delighted to engage Men in a Workshop to undertake the restoration of the benches at Horsdonside.  The project is going a long way towards helping tackle social isolation which is an increasing social issue, particularly in more isolated rural areas like North Northumberland.  The benches are being restored to their former glory and they will be a real asset at Horsdonside once the development is complete later this summer.  They will be part of a social hub within a landscaped area of the site which will help bring residents together.”

Service manager Ian Arnold who oversees the Men in a Workshop sessions and provides one to one support to members who need extra help in developing their confidence and skills, said: “Men in a Workshop is open to older men of all abilities and from all backgrounds.  Projects like the one we’ve been tasked with by Four Housing are ideal for members to work together and hone their skills.  To see the new benches on display as part of a prestigious new development within the local community will I’m sure instil a real sense of pride.”

Roz Tinlin, area manager for The Royal Voluntary Service, said:  “The workshop for the men is proving to be a tremendous success, a place where they learn, share skills and socialise.  Demographic change means that there is an increasing numbers of older men living alone – by 2030 numbers in England and Wales are projected to be 1.5m, a huge increase of 65% – so loneliness is also set to grow.  Projects like this which play a part in helping to tackle social isolation are therefore increasingly crucial.

“The men love to work together to make and restore the wooden items, such as these benches, and use all the wonderful tools to perfect their skills.”

The £1.9million Horsdonside development comprises eight two bedroom houses and six two bedroom bungalows.  The properties are being built to Life Time Home standards; a design specification which allows flexible living and will help to meet the needs of customers at different stages of their lives.  The bungalows are designed with the needs of older people in mind, and with 1 million people with dementia in the UK by 2025*, they incorporate design features that will be beneficial to people who may go on to develop the condition.

The Horsdonside properties will be available from early Autumn.  For further information please call 0300 0044 444.

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