When Susan Masters, coordinator of the Chesham, Bucks tea party group, wanted to expand she impressed her local council by showing that just a little money can go a long way to ending isolation among older people.

Before Covid there were four tea party groups in the Amersham area. But the situation wasn’t so healthy when Susan, who has volunteered for Re-engage for 17 years, took over the sole remaining group in 2022. However, within a short time the Chesham group was meeting regularly and Susan was looking to develop a second.

To get this off the ground she applied to Buckinghamshire Council’s Community Board for a grant to stage a Christmas tea party which eventually attracted enough older people to start a new group –now called Amersham.

Volunteers and guests were recruited via locally delivered leaflets, approaches to churches, word of mouth, a little help from a Women’s Institute member, invitations which were handed out with chemists’ prescriptions and mentions in the University of the Third Age newsletter. In future they may look to approach care homes and local taxi firms.

The seeds of Susan’s application were planted after she met Lizzie Wright, a Community Board manager at a networking event. She then had to submit estimates for the cost of the Christmas tea party.

In the end the council made a grant of £760 under its health and wellbeing priority.

In a summary report Susan noted that the project had succeeded as the guests thoroughly enjoyed the tea party, talked to each other and ‘most importantly returned to following sessions.’

Lizzie stated that the exercise had met the priority of strengthening communities ‘by providing a service which supports older residents to socialise with others. This helps them to live more independent, fulfilling lives and reduce loneliness and isolation…..improving their overall health and wellbeing.

“A fairly small amount of money goes a long way to providing this regular support to a group of older residents who otherwise may rely more heavily on other statutory services due to feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

She concluded: “We are thrilled to learn that the number of volunteers and guests has reached full capacity in such a short space of time. We hope to see more of these groups setting-up in the coming years.”

Susan said: “I was very glad we got the money. We were very grateful to the community board and for Lizzie’s help.

“We had to be very clear about what the project was. In the application you have to explain exactly what you’re doing, what you are spending and make sure you get invoices for everything. It’s surprising how costs mount up. Stationery- particularly stamps- is very expensive.

“And you have to demonstrate how successful you have been, that you have spent the money well. So, you need to talk about the numbers of tea party attendees and volunteers and take pictures to illustrate what’s going on. Also make sure you have a contact at Re-engage so things can get signed-off quickly.

“The council was very pleased with the outcome and we now have another tea party group which will continue to help any older people in our area who might be feeling isolated or lonely.”

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