Mental health services in County Durham have been able to continue to provide vital support during the lockdown

In response to difficulties caused by the lockdown, Durham County Council has made £1.4 million available to its 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) which is being awarded to community projects throughout the county.

This funding is to ensure that local projects and organisations can continue to provide help and support to those in the community who need to access their services during this time.

In Durham, two organisations which provide mental health support to residents have been given funding from Durham AAP to ensure they can continue to deliver their services despite being unable to meet with users face-to-face.

Waddington Street Centre and St Margaret’s Centre were each awarded over £1,000 from Durham AAP. Both venues support people living with mental health issues and, because their doors are currently closed due to the lockdown, staff were concerned about isolated centre users.

The grants from Durham AAP have helped the centres purchase mobile phones so centre staff can continue to easily keep in touch with the people they work with.

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In Spennymoor, St Paul’s Centre was awarded funding which has helped the organisation set up a telephone befriending service for those who are isolated during the lockdown.

After applying to Spennymoor AAP for the grant, the centre has secured nine decommissioned telephone handsets from Durham County Council. The handsets have been loaned to volunteers who are regularly contacting 136 people from the St Paul’s Centre Wellbeing and Employability group.

The volunteers contact the clients from their homes and support a mix of people of all ages and living situations. As some people live alone, are vulnerable, or have mental health problems, volunteers keep regular contact to ensure their mental health and emotional wellbeing is being supported during the interminable lockdown.

The befriending scheme which has been developed is supporting the St Paul’s Centre Wellbeing and Employability user groups and £270 from the Spennymoor AAP Targeted Grants Scheme has been allocated to the project.

Maureen Aspey, Director of St Paul’s Centre, said: “This has been a great example of partnership working between St Pauls Centre, our volunteers, Spennymoor AAP and Durham County Council.

“The ongoing support by our volunteers is proving to be of great benefit to our wellbeing groups. We are noticing that these calls are increasing in length week by week and is proving to be a great lifeline to many.

“We would like to express thanks to our local AAP for their support, and in making this venture happen.’’

Cllr Brian Stephens said: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a number of difficulties for many people, including issues with mental health. As we all learn to adapt to this new situation, looking after the mental health of friends, family members and ourselves is as important as looking after physical health.

“The council’s AAP coronavirus support fund has been able to ensure that organisations can continue to provide that vital support to those who may be living with mental health problems during lockdown. It’s great to see that some funding has even gone towards new projects being set up, such as telephone befriending, that will help the emotional wellbeing of those who may be isolated at this time.”

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