BURTON Albion Community Trust are joining 31 EFL clubs as part of a major new programme to tackle loneliness among older people.

The English Football League Trust are proud will be receiving £810,000 from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to support EFL Club Community Organisations in 32 deprived locations across England with the aim of connecting more older people at risk of loneliness.

A recent study from the Office National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.6 million adults reported that they felt lonely “often” or “always” whilst 7.4 million adults reported their well-being had been affected through their having felt lonely in the past seven days. The EFL Trust network has a history of working with people across all generations and have a track record of connecting the people who need it most.

Mike Evans, Chief Executive Officer of the EFL Trust comments, “We are proud to have been chosen to be part of this vital mission to support the older people in our communities. We see this as an endorsement of the great work that our CCOs have done in this area and we know there is so much more that our network will achieve.

Our Health and Wellbeing team are working hard to match the expertise of our network to the communities where it is most desperately needed and we continue to work with DCMS, NHS, Public Health England and other agencies to ensure we can all build back better after COVID-19.” Last year the Trust launched the Extra Time Hubs movement, to engage retired and semi-retired people to combat loneliness and inactivity. 

Funded by Sport England, through the National Lottery, the first pathfinder Hubs are run at 11 EFL clubs.  Satish, 84, who attends Wigan Athletic’s Extra Time Hub said, “The main reason for coming was my loneliness. I do have friends, but I live on my own after my wife passed away and I thought I would come along to the Extra Time hub. I really enjoy coming – we are looked after every week by the staff, you meet new people and you also try different activities. It’s very important for people to be able to meet each other, talk to each other and help each other and these sessions provide that.”

Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to ensure that older and more vulnerable fans and members of the community are not isolated have stepped up with groups meeting online, WhatsApp groups being set up and regular phone calls being made by Community teams, players and managers, to check on people’s wellbeing. Our Clubs and CCOs have also made doorstep visits to check in on community members across the country. Stella who attends Bolton’s hub, says, “I can honestly say that when we did the first Extra Time Hubs Zoom I think it was the first time that I had laughed so much since the lockdown started I have contact with family but they have busy lives. It’s so nice seeing everyone after so long thank you for keeping in touch” The new grants will allow expanded activities across the country under the campaign ‘Let’s Tackle Loneliness Together’, include befriending phone calls, online social groups, a pen-pal scheme, social action from young people taking part in NCS and socially distanced ‘garden gate’ conversations to emerge across EFL communities and reach the people who need this vital support right when they need it the most.

 The EFL Trust will also be one of several charities and business across the UK who will join the government’s Tackling Loneliness Network, leading the charge against Loneliness. The group will explore ways to bring people together to build strong community spirit, with a focus on groups at particular risk of loneliness and will work to continue these initiatives in the future.