Combatting Isolation and Loneliness

Combatting Isolation and Loneliness

Pontrilas branch offers much more than postal services – it connects to the heart of the community, and as such has become a vital hub. The branch Postmistress puts health and wellbeing of neighbours at heart of her work.

Based in rural Herefordshire, the Post Office and essential village store not only provides counter services but also runs a ‘good neighbour scheme’, providing community services to help older residents continue living independently in their own homes.

The Post Office is run by C.A.R.E – a social enterprise founded by postmistress Sonya Cary. Sonya, who has lived in the area for more than 27 years, set up a community interest company to help support the most vulnerable older residents within the rural villages of South Herefordshire.

The village was facing losing the lifeline of the Post Office and village store when Sonya decided to take the service on alongside setting up C.A.R.E.

Sonya said: “It works beautifully for us. We can operate Post Office services alongside our community projects.

“The whole site has become a vibrant community hub, which enables residents young and old to pop in, knowing that Pontrilas Post Office offers a warm, friendly welcome where they can get help and support in a time of crisis.

“Operating Post Office services alongside community support services is at the heart of everything we do.”

Supporting local people
A weekly lunch club hosted at the branch ensures older residents can come together to enjoy a nutritional hot meal while sharing friendship through fun activities - combating loneliness and social isolation, which can affect physical and mental health.

C.A.R.E also promotes and maintains individual health and wellbeing with a ‘village link’ scheme. Pontrilas Post Office has partnered with the local GP practice providing a free prescription collection and delivery service, giving older residents the assurance of receiving vital medication.

C.A.R.E also runs a local village transport scheme, which enables older residents without transport to attend doctor’s appointments.

Sonya added: “C.A.R.E stands for Care And Repair Enterprise – we offer support in facilitating services that help and support older and more vulnerable residents to maintain their independence when seeking to live independently in their own homes.

“We connect with local trades to help older residents with various household problems they encounter: local electricians, plumbers, gardeners,builders, cleaners, mobile hairdressers, podiatrists and chiropodists.

“Supporting localism is vital to sustainability and builds upon trusting community relationships.”

Sonya said choosing the Post Office for her HQ has been key to its success.

“To operate out of Pontrilas Post Office and village store has been the greatest reward ever. It’s given us a trustworthy position within our communities,” she added.

“It’s hard work but every day I come to work I get to meet not only my friends but my neighbours too. We’re at the heart of our community and make such a difference to those who just need that little bit of help – it’s such an enjoyable and rewarding job.”

Plans for 2018
C.A.R.E is expanding in 2018 after acquiring two empty warehouse units adjoining this branch. The units will be turned into a dementia-friendly activity café and an active-ageing fitness studio, creating not only a social venue and community hub but employment opportunities.

The café will run activities for those living with dementia while the gym will offer physiotherapy sessions for patients recovering from knee and hip replacements and cardiovascular illnesses.

Gym memberships will also be available to residents who live and work in the area meaning Sonya will be supporting the health and wellbeing activities for all age ranges in her local community.

Sonya also organises community events such as Christmas fayres and summer fetes. One of her recent events was a street party celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday.

She also hosted her first Christmas Day lunch in 2017 at Pontrilas Post Office’s vintage tearoom - bringing together people who would have spent the day home alone. She raised £280 through various Christmas raffles to help support the day. The lunch was supported by individuals and businesses, who donated meat, mince pies and crackers to help with the spirited community endeavour to ensure nobody in the community spent Christmas Day alone.

Thank you to branch teams and people like Sonya who are actively supporting the important health and wellbeing of her community, just as it is vital Post Office supports the health and wellbeing of its colleagues.