A SUCCESSFUL scheme which was set up two years ago in a bid to combat loneliness and isolation is delighted to have been given a lottery grant which will secure its future.

Linking Lives is a national charity with more than 30 befriending projects throughout the country. The Cockermouth group - the first one in Cumbria - was set up in October 2019.

The group recently received £5,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Operations manager Terry Peate said: "This is very good news and gives us security for the next 18 months. More funding bids are in.

"Loneliness can have a devastating effect on both physical and mental health.

"It is said to be a bigger crisis in this country than obesity."

The scheme has linked up 40 trained volunteers with 60 people in the community.

Seventy five per cent of referrals come from the surgery although anyone is welcome to refer people. Most of the weekly meets are done face to face but about 20 per cent are done over the phone.

"They have one hour of quality time, one on one with that person, someone who is not family. They often become great friends," said Terry.

"The aim is to introduce them to events taking place in different venues around the area and help build social contact. We want to provide a safe space for them to meet other people.

"They can go on their own or we can take them.

"We want to encourage people to get out more and reduce social isolation. The impact is improved health."

The scheme was launched by Churches Together in the Cockermouth Area (CTiCA) with the backing of Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council, Cockermouth Rotary Club and the Cinnamon Trust.

It employs a co-ordinator, Sue Gorman.

"She does an amazing job and holds everything together," said Terry.

"She is making 100 contacts a month and recruiting new volunteers all the time.

"She deals with all the referrals and sorts safeguarding etc."

He's delighted with how everything is going.

"I think it's going better than we could ever have dreamed. Our concern is that there are still people out there. We want people to know we are here," he said.

Sue can be contacted on 07957 515140 or cockermouth@linkinglives.uk.