Each month, more than 200,000 adults go without speaking to a friend or relative. This shocking statistic from Age UK puts the epidemic of social isolation in stark perspective.
As well as it being a particularly cruel affliction of modern-day life where the hectic 24/7 bustle of metropolitan living easily purges those small, kindly neighbourly acts – like popping in for a cup of tea – from the regular routine, social isolation has a corresponding public safety angle.
People who are socially isolated are more likely to become the victims of crime themselves. Scammers, in particular, focus on isolated people as they make for easier targets.
It’s why Neighbourhood Watch prides itself on being much more than a crime prevention movement. As many coordinators will tell you, it’s all about community.
“I am passionate about getting neighbours speaking to each other”, says Northampton coordinator Neil Bartholomey whose scheme covers 44 houses on the close where he lives.
“At the very least people should know the names of their closest neighbours. I arrange a summer barbeque each year and everyone is invited. I bring the food, they bring the drink. It’s great fun and helps get different neighbours talking. More people come each year.”
It’s not just the social isolation Neil is helping to tackle. He’s also ensuring neighbours do not become stranded in their homes when there it snows. The close is on a curbed slope which becomes hazardous during winter. He salts and clears the drives of people who are unable to do it themselves.
“We’re more than just a Watch – we’re a real community”, he says proudly.
Jackie West is a coordinator of a scheme in Clacton-on-sea in Essex. “When someone new moves in, I introduce myself, let them know what’s happening in the area and where everything is”, says Jackie. “I’ll get them to join Neighbourhood Watch as well if I can.”
Making sure there are plenty of social activities for neighbours to get involved with ensures that there is less chance of somebody becoming socially isolated. Jackie oversees a hive of activity.
“I’ve organised trips for residents to the pantomime, theater, garden centers or even just to the coffee shop”, she says. “It all helps to keep everyone social and engaged.”
Over 40 of the 60 bungalows in the development are part of the Neighbourhood Watch. If she knows someone is under the weather, Jackie will check in on them or ensure a neighbour know to do so.
“Without being a nuisance or a gossip”, says Jackie. “I hope to make a difference”.
Coordinators like Neil and Jackie are making sure there is a fun, social side to Neighbourhood Watch which is great to see.