Funds raised during the Surviving Winter appeal in Oxfordshire total just over £12,000, and have been used to support a variety of community groups across the county who are expert in meeting the needs of elderly and vulnerable people.
Oxfordshire Community Foundation’s generous supporters have raised just over £12,000, much of which comes from over-65s donating their unneeded Winter Fuel Allowance to help those who need it more than they do. The appeal aims to provide a lifeline for older people struggling with fuel poverty, loneliness and isolation. Oxfordshire has contributed to a total of £700,339 raised by the community foundation network as a whole across the UK. You can see the full list of grants made in Oxfordshire here.
OCF has been working with Age UK along with other local organisations specialising in elderly care and befriending, to make sure the proceeds of our appeal are spread as widely as possible across the county. By partnering with organisations already embedded into the local community, we believe we offer a strategic way to counter the problems of isolation and loneliness amongst our elderly citizens.
One such example is Full Circle, who received a £2,000 grant from the Surviving Winter fund in December. Full Circle helps older people build friendships with schoolchildren in their community. The project is based in Blackbird Leys, and the Surviving Winter grant from OCF has helped them reach three new schools in the Oxford South East school partnership, which is situated in one of the 20% most deprived areas in the country.
Every week, a small group of children and older people come to the Full Circle sessions, which include discussion, arts, crafts, gardening or games. Through spending time together, older volunteers are able to pass on their skills and life experience, and children benefit from the care and attention of new friends. For older people who don’t have their own families or whose grandchildren are far away, Full Circle gives them the chance to really connect with and understand the younger age group, with over 90% of attendees feeling more confident interacting with the other generation after they have taken part. One older participant says: “It is about the only thing that makes me feel important and alive.”
Many of the problems faced by older people in our county aren’t specific to the winter months – being lonely and having few contacts with friends and neighbours is something that people struggle with all year round. OCF is striving to address these problems, but sadly there are always people we can’t help. For example, last year we were befriended by an older gentleman called Julian Koenig (pictured in our office with a typewriter we bought him), who would pay regular visits to our office. His communication was impaired by dementia, but he was always an interesting person to talk to. However, despite our attempts to refer him to support groups, he lived alone and isolated in Oxford. We were rather devastated to learn that he had died in a tragic house fire shortly after Christmas.
CEO Jayne Woodley comments: “For people like Mr Koenig, it seems all too easy to slip through the net. We don’t have all the answers – and in cases like this one, the question of which services or community organisations are responsible for ensuring someone’s safety is a matter that stimulates great debate. But I do believe that supporting groups that befriend older people, making them less isolated and more likely to get out and about, will help avoid too many tragedies like that of our friend.”