Agenda item

Hayley Brooks (Head of Housing and Health, Sevenoaks District Council) and Debra Exall (Strategic Relationships Adviser, Kent County Council)



The Chair welcomed the guest to the committee and a short introduction was given by Members.


Mrs Brooks and Mrs Exall advised the Committee that a short video was available to view upon discretion should Members wish to see the One You Adviser scheme in operation: 

The report presented to the Committee set out evidence of how social isolation and loneliness amongst older people could be prevented by action, services and initiatives carried out by District Councils, either unilaterally or in partnership with other organisations, and provided examples of innovative work already underway.


Q – Please introduce yourselves and provide an outline of the roles and responsibilities that your posts involve?


Hayley Brooks – Head of Housing and Health

Debra Exall – Strategic Relationship Adviser, Kent County Council


Mrs Brooks, Head of Housing and Health, Sevenoaks District Council said that her role within the Council was to manage both projects and staff within the Communities and Business Team at Sevenoaks District Council. The Team delivered a range of community engagement, housing and partnership projects relating to health prevention and promotion, healthy lifestyles, housing advice and support, voluntary sector support, arts and culture, leisure and sport and community development.


Sevenoaks District Council had worked in partnership with Kent County Council for a number of years to tackle issues of social isolation and loneliness and recognised that that a more holistic approach needed to be adopted. In 2014, Michelle Lowe, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health, Sevenoaks District Council, recognised that housing had a direct impact on public health and launched the new housing strategy which focused on improving health and wellbeing through integrated working. The One You service was launched in 2018 through partnership agreement with District and Borough Councils in North and West Kent, the Kent County Council Public Health Team and the Kent Community Health Foundation Trust. The scheme was developed to provide a single point of access for those with more complex needs and tackle wider determinants of health such as: helping people to lose weight, get fitter, quit smoking, improve mental wellbeing, encourage involvement within local communities and provide advice around housing, debt and employment. The Advisers have been trained to carry out loneliness and isolation assessments using a number of nationally set questions, the results revealed that more than 11% of customers scored as feeling emotionally lonely and 12% of people scored as feeling socially lonely. The One You Your Home was another project which extended the remit of the national One You service with a unique focus on older people. The clients within this service were often referred via their GPs (within the Sevenoaks District) who identified that their top 25 most complex patients who could benefit from the service often had mental health, loneliness, depression and housing/financial issues.


The Housing and Health Team at Sevenoaks District Council were able to fund a number of grant schemes through the Better Care Fund which was an ambitious programme across the NHS and local government which helped to create a local budget to encourage partnership working and improve health and wellbeing. Alongside the One You service and the One You Your Home service, other projects funded by Sevenoaks District Council to reduce social isolation and loneliness included the Pop Up – Pop In project, the Dunton Green Lunch Club and three-day care centres operating a range of activities which were supported by Age UK and Tonbridge.


Mrs Brooks said that the Age UK Loneliness Heat Map identified areas of rural isolation and complex health needs rather than deprivation. She said that anyone of any age experienced loneliness and whilst statistics show that 70% of those experiencing it were over 65, the One You Service had seen an increase in single, middle-aged men coming forward and those with longer term health conditions experiencing loneliness much earlier in life due to loss of mobility and self-confidence, unable to go out and join their community.


Q – How do you find your client group?


Clients coming into this service were often referred by GPs in two surgeries in the District. Diagnosing someone with loneliness however was difficult as loneliness comes in various forms for various reasons. Projects such as the Pop Up Pop In lunch and coffee mornings had proven to be successful within the more rural areas through effective promotion which has encouraged people to attend the events at the local village halls.





Q – Do the referrals into your service come from neighbours?


Mrs Brooks said that neighbours would often look after each other and manage needs between themselves. Referrals were often made via Environmental Health following concerns of hoarding, or noise complaints which would then flag up issues of isolation and loneliness. An alternative route into the service would be when people require housing adaptations due to long-term mobility issues and indications of loneliness are often flagged at the initial assessment point.


Q – Is this work being carried out across Kent as a County Wide Service?


The West Kent services were supported through a partnership agreement between District/Borough Councils in North and West Kent, KCC Public Health Team and Kent Community Health Foundation Trust (KCHFT).  In the East of Kent, all services were commissioned out to the Kent Community Health Foundation Trust. The East and West of the county had been commissioned differently as part of the initial Primary Care Trust initiative. Public Health measured all programmes on a quarterly basis, however the data collated was taken from District Performance Indicators rather than a Kent Performance Indicator. The assessment to identify social isolation and loneliness used a national set of questions to ensure consistency. Mrs Exall agreed to follow up the comments made by the Committee in relation to data comparison between the East and West of the county.


Q – What is your view on social prescribing?


 Mrs Brooks said that social prescribing needed to be tailored to local needs and this task was best placed with the District Councils. The primary objective of the One You service was to create a whole county approach, whereby services would stop working in silo and instead utilise their resources to develop a holistic approach.


Q – What process do you use to gather the data?


Mrs Brooks said that the data had been taken from the national toolkit produced by Age UK. The data looked at factors such as income deprivation and health deprivation to identify what areas of the county were more perceptible to loneliness.


Q – Do you work with the arts and heritage foundations?


The Sevenoaks District Arts Council, funded by Sevenoaks District Council, existed to support, encourage and promote all forms of artistic endeavour, whether this was through singing to help combat dementia, performing arts or drawing, the Council recognised the importance of art in helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation.


Q – What is the remit of the specialist new Kent One You Advisor?

Specialist One You Advisers had been employed by each District and Borough Council in West and North Kent and were based within the Council health teams to deliver targeted services from GP and community venues.  Advisers provided a single point of access and carried out holistic assessments, through one-to-one and groups activities, to support and empower residents to improve their health and wellbeing.  The Advisers also helped to improve healthy lifestyle behaviours such as: helping people to lose weight; move more; be smoke free; drink less; improve mental wellbeing.  Those with more complex needs may require support with other aspects of loneliness and social isolation such as empowering them to feel more included in their community or helping them get housing, debt or employment advice.

Q – What is the One New Advisors role in ensuring an integrated discharge of patients back into the community?


The One You Adviser was not linked to the hospital. Sevenoaks District Council funded a West Kent Housing Coordinator to sit on the hospital discharge team to resolve issues around the delayed discharge of patients due to housing. The One You Adviser was responsible for seeing those patients already within the community either referred by the GP or the midwife in the home, they were not dealing with those just coming out of hospital.


Q – What is the Better Care Fund and where is the money coming from?


The Better Care Fund was supported through central government funding. At Sevenoaks District Council the funding had helped the Private Sector Housing Team to write and adopt a new Housing Assistance Policy, which made it easier to support people to remain in their own homes and reduce admissions to hospital. 


Q –There have been innovative approaches adopted by leisure centres in an attempt to encourage people experiencing loneliness to come into the centre, however, due to very little take up the programme was stopped. What is your view on this?


Mrs Brooks said that concession on leisure services was a good idea, however, unless someone within that facility had the time to promote and encourage vulnerable adults into using a service which is bespoke to them, it would be very unlikely to find those who are already feeling lonely and socially isolated going into gym facilities at their own will. Evidence showed that those who were the loneliest were those who had fallen out of their community network, this could range from young parents, people experiencing domestic abuse, marriage breakdowns and this was particularly noticeable when combined with health issues. Whilst previous work had focused on older age it was evident, following recent statistics, that there needed to be a more balanced approach.


Q – The Age UK heat maps were produced in 2016, is there current data available?


The national data was taken from the 2011 census. Due to the range of data needed it would be very difficult to receive and collate current data.


Q – Has the removal of bus services increased social isolation and loneliness within rural settlements


Mrs Brooks said that the evidence to support a correlation in the removal of public transport with increased loneliness was not available. Whilst transport was significant in rural areas, Mrs Brooks appreciated that money could not be justifiably spent on running empty buses through rural towns.


Q – Have you been able to capture the increase in social isolation and loneliness due to digitalised services such as home delivery?


Mrs Brooks said that the older population did not tend to do online shopping as many of them did not have access to a computer. Mrs Brooks promoted digitalised services such as home delivery as it ensured that those with health needs and mobility issues still received regular fresh food; it also encouraged older people to experiment with other digitalised services as they become more confident with modern technology, such as skype or Facebook, helping them to feel more socially connected.


In regard to affordable data packages, there was funding available to support the installation of the equipment, however, Mrs Brooks reminded Members that loneliness and social isolation were not necessarily linked to areas of deprivation, the main concern was to target those living in rural isolation who had very little or no access to their neighbours or their communities.


Q – What is the importance of libraries?


Libraries offered activities such as singing groups, knitter natter groups, book clubs, IT support. Mrs Brooks agreed that they were an essential part of a community and played a pivotal role in helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation.


Q – Community groups don’t often have constitutions and often rely on the church for funding. Do you think there are ways in which Kent County Council can help community groups by providing financial services?


The Housing and Health Team at Sevenoaks District Council helped community groups to establish their own constitution. A constitution takes into account what the association intends to do, makes provisions for future developments of the association, states how the association is structured and provides details around safeguarding and how to apply for funding. Sevenoaks District Council supported the Dementia Friendly group and the Shed Project to draw up constitutions. By helping associations to draw up simple constitutions it helped to ensure the continuation of that community group.


Q – We have a good understanding of what is happening within Sevenoaks, however, do you have evidence to support the notion that all Districts within Kent replicate the work that is being done within the West of Kent and whether they are performing to the same standards?


Mrs Exall confirmed that the evidence to support this notion was not available. A number of programmes had been developed across the county, however, these were being managed and set up using a less systematic approach. Within East Kent, there was a lot of activity that the District and Borough Councils had done to help reduce loneliness, however these were often a by-product of other schemes that looked at issues around dementia, mental health, community transport and armed forces, but there was not the same holistic approach which has been adopted within the West of the county. Mrs Exall agreed to liaise with Public Health to seek further information around East Kent’s programmes to tackle loneliness and social isolation and the concerns around public transportation.




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