Postmen and women are doing their part to tackle loneliness by visiting people on their mail routes as part of a new Home Office scheme.
The scheme, which is being trialled in New Malden, gets posties to visit 100 pre-selected volunteers while they are out on their rounds.
According to the Royal Mail postmen and women are uniquely placed to tackle this problem as they are established in their local communities and highly trusted.
Alann Overington, Royal Mail New Malden delivery office manager said: “Our postmen and women develop a lot of knowledge about the local area and the people who live there. At Royal Mail, we’re always happy to pitch in in an emergency, but it can be more difficult to know how to help when you feel that people are lonely or isolated.
“We are really pleased to be doing our bit to help look out for our customers’ well-being and help put them in touch with local support services if they need it.”
This could include putting them in touch with activities or groups in the area or helping them stay healthy.
They will ask participants five questions on their individual safety and well-being with the information going back to Kingston Council, who will decide if further assistance is required.
Joyce Unwin, 90, has been helped by StayWell, a local community group in Kingston which is assisting in the scheme.
Joyce suffered a fall a couple of months ago so the ‘community connectors’ have been walking with Joyce to the shops on a regular basis to help her become sufficiently confident to go out on her own.
This trial is part of the wider Loneliness Strategy that was put forward by the Government last year after recommendations from the Jo Cox Commission.
Loneliness is a growing problem in the UK with the latest Age UK statistics stating that there are 1.4 million chronically lonely people England alone, with the number expected to grow in the coming years.
In Kingston, there are 24,000 people aged over 65 and 10% of them live alone. The 65 plus age group expected to grow by 25% in the next 10 years, the fastest growing in the borough making it a crucial issue for the council to tackle.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Loneliness can seriously affect the quality of life and health of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and the Government has made clear its commitment to tackling this issue.”
The trial will run for around six months and it is hoped that if it is successful then it could be developed as a new Royal Mail service.