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Nor­folk’s pi­o­neer­ing li­brary project to tackle com­mu­nity iso­la­tion has been recog­nised in a na­tional re­port re­leased by Arts Coun­cil Eng­land.

Nor­folk County Coun­cil’s Li­brary and In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice has been praised for its Li­braries Lone­li­ness project.

The re­port looked at the con­tri­bu­tion li­braries make to the well­be­ing of older peo­ple and picked out five na­tional ex­am­ples of schemes mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence.

The li­brary project forms part of the coun­cil’s wider In Good Com­pany cam­paign, which aims to change peo­ple’s be­hav­iour by pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive ways that peo­ple can con­nect with their neigh­bours and the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

The re­port praised the li­brary project for align­ing its ac­tiv­i­ties with the wider strate­gic pri­or­i­ties of Nor­folk County Coun­cil, where man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Wendy Thom­son chal­lenged ser­vices to do more to tackle lone­li­ness.

The li­brary ser­vice quickly got on board, look­ing at what it of­fered and how it could help to tackle lone­li­ness through its 47 li­braries and eight mo­bile li­braries.

With a pop­u­la­tion of al­most 900,000 res­i­dents, one in five over 65s in Nor­folk is be­lieved to suf­fer from lone­li­ness.

Since the li­braries started their part of the project in Novem­ber, they have al­most dou­bled the num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties for older peo­ple, from 57 to 113.

Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude Just a Cuppa, tea and con­ver­sa­tion now avail­able at 17 of Nor­folk’s li­braries. As well as pro­vid­ing com­pany, it also al­lows staff to iden­tify signs of lone­li­ness and of­fer sup­port.

Also Colour Me Calm, run at half of Nor­folk’s li­braries, are colour­ing ses­sions where par­tic­i­pants can talk as lit­tle or as much as they like in a re­laxed at­mos­phere.

Knit and Nat­ter is run in half of Nor­folk’s li­braries, with Nor­folk Knit­ters and Stitch­ers, mainly by vol­un­teers.

Scrab­ble-ses­sions are held at 15 li­braries, with the King’s Lynn group prov­ing so pop­u­lar ses­sions are held daily and strong friend­ships have been formed.

Feed­back from the Lone­li­ness Project has been over­whelm­ing, with many iso­lated com­mu­nity mem­bers cit­ing their li­brary as trans­form­ing their life and mak­ing them part of a com­mu­nity again.

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