This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is loneliness. Loneliness and isolation affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key factor of poor mental health.

One charity which is leading the way to combat loneliness and isolation is Liverpool Cares – a community network of older and younger neighbours hanging out and having fun. The team joined us at Baltic Creative Campus during the first lockdown in 2020 and worked hard to keep their community together by delivering programs online. Their work encourages intergenerational connection, learning and laughter!

Now they are back hosting social clubs, workshops and activities face-to-face. We spoke with Alice Taylor, Abbie Beckett and Rachael Treacher to find out what projects they have going on and their thoughts about tackling loneliness.

Hey team! Can you start by telling us your roles and how you started?

Alice Taylor: My role is Love Your Neighbour Programme coordinator. I was involved in the programme as a Younger Neighbour in Manchester so I had to go for this opportunity when it came up. The programme has a special place in my heart, as I had a very close friendship with my match back in Manchester. To be able to create those connections and support older neighbours in Liverpool is a joy!

Abbie Beckett: I’m the Social Clubs Coordinator, so I organise and run the social clubs programme here at Liverpool Cares, making sure there are up to 15 social clubs every month for our older and younger neighbours to enjoy. This includes everything from a simple pint in the pub together in Wavertree to sourdough bread-making in Kensington! I worked for the NHS before this and needed a big change. I wanted to work closely with people and communities and feel like I was part of something that was exciting and purposeful.

Rachael Treacher: I’m the Senior Outreach and Volunteer Programme Coordinator at Liverpool Cares. I started the project for Liverpool nearly 4 years ago. I got into this job after working in communities for over 10 years in a number of various roles, ranging from arts events organisation, building 60 foot castles in communities and running about getting people involved in lots of cool events in the city! My work has been really varied but it has always had a community focus which helps people to get out and about!

Some of the Liverpool Cares team, L-R: Rachael Forde, Rachael Treacher, Jess Dyson-Houghton, Alice Taylor and Abbie Beckett. (c) Liverpool Cares.
What Liverpool Cares campaign or project has really made you proud?

AB: Phasing back into face-to-face social clubs after the pandemic was really difficult, there was a lot to navigate and a lot of trust to build back up. I’m made up that we’re finally back up to 13 social clubs every month across the city – and people are loving them!

AT: For me it’s our recent focus on tech support for our older neighbours. We’ve helped them learn about the internet and made the devices accessible and approachable. The workshops are a safe space to ask questions and develop skills.

RT: In April we took a bunch of our younger neighbours to the Invisible Wind Factory Roller Drome to say a HUGE thank you to them for being awesome! It was an incredible success and we’re planning an even bigger younger neighbour specific event in July. We loved hanging out with younger neighbours to find out how they are getting on.

What would your advice be to a young person looking to make a difference and support their community?

AT: My advice would be to find something that interests you and will bring joy. That might be creative, practical, or conversational but once you find your niche it won’t feel like ‘work’ and will be something you look forward to doing.

AB: Even the smallest, simplest things count as well. A couple of hours of your free time can make a huge difference to the community around you.

RT: Yeah, get involved and connect with as many like-minded people as you can. There’s tons of stuff going on in Liverpool and lots of boss people to speak with. It’s all about being honest, brave and working passionately to make a positive difference

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. That must really resonate with the work you’re doing!

AT: Our whole mission, since we started the Love Your Neighbour programme, is shaped around reducing isolation and loneliness. We foster connection and offer the support our neighbours need. This might be coming along to a club and chatting to new people or supporting a neighbour with the practical tools they need to get out and about, empowering them to be more independent. Everything we do is geared towards combating loneliness and creating connection.

AB: We know people are still in their homes, worried about the pandemic. We’re not fully out the other side yet, and we know not everyone will be comfortable coming along and meeting in big groups like our social clubs. So we’re running social clubs over the phone, where people can join in with group calls, quizzes and music sessions from the comfort of their homes, for free!

What is the plan for Liverpool Cares in 2022?

AT: More of all the great stuff we’re doing! The growth of our programme and our reach in the city. We are continuing to break down barriers to connection in all aspects of our work.

AB: Definitely growth. We’re hoping to work in even more areas of Liverpool where we feel we haven’t been able to reach yet, and offer even bigger, better social clubs. We’ll also be celebrating our 4th birthday in October, which usually means a big knees-up with all of the neighbours!

You’ll be needing more volunteers if you’re looking to grow then!

RT: Yes! We’re pushing for younger neighbours aged 18-24 years involved with our programmes. So if you’re 18 plus and want to get involved, you can sign up to a monthly younger neighbour induction. We run them each month and you’ll get to meet the team, hear about programmes and eat some tasty pizza at the end when we have a bit of a social! Plus you’ll get to meet lots of like-minded people too.

AB: We’re really proud to be a charity where people can volunteer totally on their own terms. If you only have a couple of hours free per month, that’s great! If you want to come along every single week, that’s also great! We don’t want work or life commitments to get in the way of people joining in. Sometimes we only see certain neighbours once or twice a year, but they still gain a lot from coming to some social clubs to meet people and have a good gab. If you want to join in the fun, then get involved!

What are some other ways people can support your work?

AB: Sign up to be in our network. Tell people you think would enjoy being a part of it and come with your friends and family. And tell your grandparents about us! We’re always welcoming new people.

Liverpool Cares is based in the Sheds at Baltic Creative Campus. You can find out how to support their programmes online. Don’t forget to follow them on social media to learn about future projects!