Community Circles have been commissioned by Wigan Council to work with care homes and in extra care housing settings

Circles make a positive difference in individuals
lives and help build local community connections.

Sharon Wilton, a Community Circle Connector in Wigan, writing on the Housing LIN blog says:

My aim is to support anyone
living in extra care housing who wants a Circle to have one. Their
Circle will help them reconnect with a purpose; for example, a dream, an
ambition or community activity. To achieve this a Circle is first
established, which is run by a volunteer, who will ensure that actions
are met to help that person achieve their purpose. A Circle may have
additional members, those who are important to the individual, and they
will also be part of the monthly Circle meetings.

Community Circles isn’t a befriending service – the aim is to support
conversations and sharing of ideas that can help the person connect
more with what matters to them, although friendships can and do develop
as Circle meetings progress and when they do they are natural
progressions and not forced relationships.

“We must always keep in mind the value that these wonderful
people can add both inside and outside of their respective extra care
housing settings.”

I met with a lovely lady recently who was identified by staff at an
extra care housing setting as being particularly isolated and lonely.
They had told me she wanted to move better. When I met this lady, it was
true that she does want to move better, but the main focus for her is
companionship – she wants someone with whom she can bond and get out for
short walks or longer day trips with. We had a good chat about why we
are not a befriending service but about how we can explore actions that
can help her achieve her goal. I have a wonderful volunteer whom I will
introduce shortly who works at another extra care housing scheme also in
Wigan. Jointly we know of other ladies, at both settings, who have
similar interests who are also lonely and isolated.

In addition, I recently caught up with another lady whom I first met
earlier this year. At our last meeting she had told me, as she smiled
and joked, that she had not laughed in as long as she could remember.
She talked of precious memories of having an active life and of hearing
canary song with her much-loved partner. She added that she would love
to reconnect with nature and move better. Prior to a decline in her
mobility this lady was an active volunteer and had run one of the
original food trucks with her partner for many years. Upon introducing a
Circle volunteer to her we talked about those memories and possible
ways for her to move better and reconnect. It moved us both seeing her
face beam and watching tender tears fall at the thought of connecting
with those things that hold such tender reminiscence. The power of
focussing on what matters.

“My hope is that these Circles will help relieve the loneliness
and isolation currently prominent and bring these lovely ladies purposes
to fruition.”

Purposes for each Circle can have similarities but may require
different approaches. By exploring the essence of a Circle – focussing
on the purpose, introducing a great volunteer to help actions happen,
getting everyone in these ladies’ Circles involved with those actions,
and sharing great ideas, we will help to bring about the change needed.
In addition, each Circle will grow a potentially wonderful network of
connections. It is the intention of myself and that of our Circle
volunteers to ensure these ladies feel valued and that their skills and
contributions are recognised and celebrated. My hope is that these
Circles will help relieve the loneliness and isolation currently
prominent and bring these lovely ladies purposes to fruition.

Every person I meet has a fascinating history and a wealth of skills
and knowledge. We must always keep in mind the value that these
wonderful people can add both inside and outside of their respective
extra care housing settings. Although it is evident that isolation and
loneliness are common place in the extra care housing schemes where I
work, I would love to see communal areas buzz whilst being used to their
full potential, for both Circle meetings, and by community groups who
have been introduced as a consequence of actions from those Circles.
Thus, helping each individual feel they are an important contributor to
their respective communities.

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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