SSEN helps Dorset charity to ‘befriend’ hundreds of isolated residents during lockdown

SSEN Resilient Communities Fund supporting community coronavirus response

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the charity PramaLife had to temporarily close the 56 clubs, groups and activities that would normally support around 800 elderly individuals living in the Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and East Dorset areas. With help from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), the organisation has been able to set up alternative and ongoing support for the communities it serves.

In March, SSEN repurposed its Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) making £320,000 available to support local efforts to help those most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, and PramaLife was awarded £1,920 to set up a telephone service to replace the contact that elderly and vulnerable residents had come to rely on through the charity’s many groups.

Through a team of over 40 volunteers, PramaLife established its Friendship Line and Telephone Befrienders, providing members of the community who felt lonely or isolated during lockdown with a friendly ear and a source of support. Available seven days a week, over 500 calls were made to the support line during the months of lockdown and the Dorset-based charity has now adapted its service to provide ongoing support over the coming months.

Sue Warr, PramaLIFE Pathways Manager, explains more: “Through a robust partnership formed from the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Resilience Group on Volunteering, we have now been able to establish the Telephone Friendship Group project to continue and develop the initial community support we set out to provide.

“There is a recognition that loneliness and isolation is, and always has been, a big issue for many people and PramaLife would like to thank Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks for this award that has helped us provide so many people with the support needed to help them through these difficult times.”

Jo Niven, SSEN’s Head of Region, said: “When we repurposed our Resilient Communities Fund, the support of the communities we serve was at the forefront of our minds; enabling them to obtain funding that would help them respond quickly and efficiently in tackling the local issues they had identified as a result of coronavirus.

“PramaLife has been able to use that funding, not only during the period of lockdown but going forward as restrictions remain in place, to give communities across a large region a chance to chat and feel part of that wider community, even if they are living alone, shielding or isolating. I’m delighted that - in a small way - SSEN has been able to help them in their continuing work that brings comfort and support to so many.”

Earlier this year, successful applicants from community, parish, town and borough councils were awarded up to £3,000 each for projects that supported vulnerable community members, enabled volunteers to support community coronavirus initiatives, provide PPE to vulnerable and frontline workers, run community befriending schemes and improve community communication. 

Since its launch in 2015, SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund has provided over £2.7 million to 538 local community projects to build resilience and protect those most vulnerable.  The criteria for this year’s fund was changed following consultation with SSEN stakeholder groups, who strongly supported opening the fund early and targeting coronavirus response.