From left: Lindsey Goodall, Community and Events Fundraising Officer, The RWT Charity, Elinor Cole, Arts and Heritage Co-Ordinator, The RWT Charity, Alison Dowling, Head of Patient Experience and Public Involvement at RWT, Eleanor Morris, Deputy Head of Patient Experience (Strategy and Engagement) at RWT and Ian Darch, Chief Executive of WVCA.

A charity has won a grant of £220,000 to help up to 1,000 vulnerable people in Wolverhampton over the next two years.

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) Charity, in partnership with Wolverhampton Voluntary and Community Action (WVCA) has been awarded £220,000 from NHS Charities Together for project Holistic Opportunities Preventing Exclusion (HOPE).

As part of the bid, RWT will recruit, train, manage and support a full-time Link Volunteer Co-ordinator, a part-time Link Administration Officer, and up to 200 volunteers per year. These will work alongside the city’s Social Prescribing Service, run by WVCA, to help tackle loneliness, isolation, depression and anxiety.

There are currently more than 3,000 referrals a year to the Social Prescribing Service, following a spike in referrals for mental health in the last two years following the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is mainly due to increased loneliness and isolation and the mental and physical impact of that. Other reasons include bereavement and the effects on physical health from Long Covid.

HOPE will work alongside the service – which identifies and refers people to improve their wellbeing – including linking them to community services such as social groups, sporting activities, and groups focusing on areas of interest, such as gardening and arts and crafts.

Around a third of the grant – £75,000 – will be available to apply for to fund small, grass roots community groups to offer activities aimed at improving social connectivity. These bids will be assessed by the steering group.

HOPE will also focus on supporting people experiencing Long Covid, carers and those needing support with pain and medication management and these funds will be used to deliver a range of support, including:

  • Safe spaces for carers to socialise with those they care for and with others in a similar circumstance
  • Physical activities such as walks, art activities, knitting and yoga
  • Healthy eating, ‘knit and natter’ and art therapy

Alison Dowling, Head of Patient Experience at RWT, said: “This is the first time we’ve really been able to work in partnership with the voluntary sector and we’re excited about the opportunities this can bring for volunteers. I wish to sincerely thank the Trust’s Charity and in particular Chair Sue Rawlings for the support and vision for this project.”

Eleanor Morris, Deputy Head of Patient Experience at RWT, added: “We hope by boosting social prescribing programmes, more support can be provided to people experiencing loneliness and isolation and it encourages more connection with community activities.

“We hope the programme will provide meaningful difference to people and even help reduce pressures on frontline NHS services.”

Ian Darch, Chief Executive of WVCA, said: “We’re delighted to be working with RWT on the HOPE project which will play an important role in improving the well-being of local people.

“Tackling loneliness reduces mental and physical illness. Ultimately, if people are supported to remain well, the pressure on the health and social care system will reduce.”

Amanda Winwood, Charity Development Manager from The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust Charity, said: “We are so grateful to have been successful with the grant from NHS Charities together and we look forward to the positive difference we can make to the people of Wolverhampton.

“Reducing isolation will hopefully give confidence to our community and open other opportunities for them and focusing on their wellbeing.”

Opportunities to apply for a small grant and to volunteer with the HOPE project will be publicised in the weeks ahead.

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