Wandsworth Libraries has launched a new scheme to tackle loneliness and isolation in the community.
Anyone who is feeling lonely or isolated can receive weekly calls from library staff, giving members of the community the chance to speak to new people and regularly engage in friendly conversations.
Patrick Malone, ‘A Chance To Talk’ co-ordinator, said: “I am very proud to be part of a team that is committed to helping people who are feeling isolated and alone.
“I’ve had a few phone calls already from people making use of the scheme and everyone so far is really grateful for the programme.
“I’ve also received a flurry of emails from people who have seen the posters and wanted to say they think it’s a lovely initiative. It’s nice that the community has been super responsive, even if the programme isn’t right for them.”
Groups would meet in libraries across the borough and talk about different books, stories, or articles they were reading.
Malone said the scheme resembled a book club, but it was more informal – people could arrive and participate without having read or prepared anything in advance.
‘Reading Friends’ was launched in response to The Campaign To End Loneliness‘ estimation that nine million people in the U.K. are suffering from loneliness and isolation, and are also not having a healthy amount of dialogue with other people.
Malone commented: “Research also shows that loneliness can lead to early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s, so these kinds of schemes can act as early intervention.”
‘Reading Friends’ was suspended due to lockdown, so ‘A Chance To Talk’ has become a way to continue the positive work despite coronavirus restrictions.
Malone said: “We want to emphasise that people shouldn’t feel shy or embarrassed.
“We’re very flexible with arrangements and timings, and people can just ring up to find out more if they want – there’s no commitment.
“We have a lovely team of wonderful, enthusiastic people who are just keen to help in any way they can.”
Councillor Steffi Sutters, Cabinet Member for Community Services and Open Spaces, said: “The ‘A Chance to Talk’ scheme is another example of the wonderful work our library team does.
“At a time when many councils are contracting their library services, Wandsworth is expanding the service into new areas and offering support to the community in so many ways.
“Just knowing someone is there ready to chat is wonderful.”
If you or anyone you know could use a friendly chat, you can contact Southfields Library on 020 8780 1945 or email [email protected].