A PRESCRIPTION for friendship has helped 71 people in East Durham to overcome loneliness and isolation.

The project, by East Durham Trust, was funded with £5,000 through County Durham Community Foundation’s NHS Health Improvement Fund.

People at risk of loneliness or suffering from poor mental health were invited to different sessions at local community centres where they received a warm welcome and the chance to get involved with activities like crafting, gardening, creative writing and upcycling.

East Durham Trust is a charity based in one of the UK’s most deprived communities.

With a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, it works towards social and economic regeneration and supporting the most vulnerable people, through a range of projects and services: A Foodbank; delivering food parcels to individuals and families facing financial crisis.

A Telephone Befriending Service; supporting elderly and/or isolated individuals.

A range of advice services covering issues such as debt, housing, welfare and benefits.

A food delivery service; ‘The People’s Takeaway’ prepares and delivers hot meals to disadvantaged individuals and families.

Lindsey Wood, deputy manager at the Trust, said: “A lot of our work over the past year has been crisis intervention. We have been non-stop for food parcels, packed lunches and helping people with their shopping.

“People have lost their confidence for day-to-day getting about.

“So we are thinking about how we support community venues to reopen and the community to re-engage.

“Isolation is a big issue for people, and it can affect any age.

“There are big problems around mental health and we have sadly heard of many suicides.

“I think the impact of the pandemic will last for a long time.”

In December, the Trust was also awarded £19,438.50 from the NHS ICS Winter Resilience Fund, again through the Foundation, to help reduce loneliness, maintain social prescribing activities and to help the most socially isolated people as the lockdown eases.

For those who want to learn more, to volunteer, donate, or apply for a grant, visit: cdcf.org.uk/