Fakenham charity stepping up the fight against loneliness and isolation

MP Keith Simpson visits the groups showcase day. Picture: Matthew Usher.

MP Keith Simpson visits the groups showcase day. Picture: Matthew Usher.

First Focus moved to the scout hall on Oak Street in october and extended its opening from two to four days a week, after receiving a £250,000 lottery grant.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson attended an open day where it showcased the support it mnow offers people with illnesses, disabled people and those suffering from mental health issues as well as their families.

Mr Simpson said: 'Services like this are absolutely crucial because, although money and resources are the headline grabbers, in terms of supporting the local community's social care and of course the full time staff, without all the volunteers things would not function.

'A very important element here is about the local community, people talk about the breakdown of local communities but here we have volunteers of all ages, although many are of retirement age as you would expect, and that helps to bond the community.

'One of the biggest illnesses today is loneliness and I suspect that facilities like this are literally a lifeline to individuals, some of who don't have any relatives at all. They may have always lived on their own and also those whose husband, wife or partner has died.'

As well as giving advice and support the group also puts on a variety of events from table top gardening and art clubs to special all-inclusive exercise classes.

First Focus co-ordinator April Simnor said: 'We range from socially isolated individuals to individuals who have been diagnosed with other mental health needs and others who have personal budgets so they have care plans.

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'The service is tailored to the individual. We used to be open two days a week, now we are open four days so we are hoping it is going to double our footfall, which was around 5,000 last year.'

There are more than 25 volunteers who are the lifeblood of the charity, which was founded in 2002.

First Focus is now looking to open a new group in Dereham and exploring possible locations in the town.