TWO new workers have been recruited to help tackle loneliness and isolation in the south of Barnsley with the promise of help ranging from a new volunteer driver service to ‘pop up’ pantomime events.

The objective of the project is to crack the problems faced by residents who find themselves distanced from mainstream society, with funding provided by the South Area Council, made up of Barnsley Councillors who represent the areas.

Age UK has been recruited to provide the service, after running a pilot project in Wombwell which is seen as providing some early indicators of where problems exist and what can be done to tackle them.

A broad-ranging approach will be taken to identify those who may benefit from help, including making the service known via GPs, prescription delivery services and the home library, in addition to the more familiar posters and flyer distribution.

Work will be done also to identify groups for the lonely which may be in need of support, to ensure they have a viable future, and where no groups currently exist to work towards establishing some which the community could benefit from.

The volunteer driver scheme would provide transport for those who would otherwise struggle to get to appointments, being operated on a cost-only basis under a system which has already been introduced in the Penistone area.

The new project is called Better Together and will cover the Darfield, Wombwell, Hoyland and Birdwell communities, alongside surrounding villages.

The two workers will have responsibilities for specific communities but will also cover the whole area as needed, in an attempt to ensure the most complete cover possible is provided.

It is hoped to have four events in each of the four council wards, or local areas, each year, which could range from winter warmth advice sessions to ‘pop-up’ pantomime to provide unexpected entertainment and the opportunity to socialise.

In addition to work from the Age UK staff, it is also planned to recruit volunteers for a good neighbour scheme, to encourage people to strike up relationships with those who require help with simple tasks or just companionship.

Age UK also envisage the University of the Third Age, or U3A becoming involved in the area, setting up groups with specific interests.

Elsewhere in Barnsley, they run groups for those with an interest in topics as diverse as comedy, magic and French conversation, operating on a self-sustaining model.

In Penistone, where around a dozen groups have been established, all have continued to thrive.

Age UK’s Jane Holliday told councillors: “We have to find ways of making communities self resilient and we have had a good response to it, which is great.

“In the south area, we are already working with 20 volunteers. We will be recruiting more,” she said.

* Provided by the Local Democracy Reporting Service