We’re thrilled that our local MP, Tracey Crouch, has agreed to become Patron of The Net Community Hub. Her role as Minister for Sport and Civil Society also now encompasses being Minister for Loneliness, the reduction of which is our key objective.
Hub Manager Jaye spoke with Tracey during her official first visit to the hub recently, to find out what steps are being undertaken to address social isolation nationwide and how hubs like ours can make such a difference.
Tackling the issues highlighted by MP Jo Cox.
“Firstly, thank you for asking me to be Patron, it’s a real honour to be asked. This is a hub that has developed over time into something amazing – I remember being here and painting it when it was first being turned into the community hub as it is now. At the time all I saw was a shell, and what you see now is a really vibrant community spirit with people laughing and giggling; there’s a lot of new people here making new connections that they may not have realised they needed to have.
“In terms of activities in this area, I’ve always been really fond of Walderslade, it reminds me of where I grew up in West Hythe – out of the main town so with a slight disconnect between some of the areas, quite often forgotten – so I’m really fond of Walderslade – the people here are hilarious and warm and because of that warmth, it’s easy to forget about the real challenges they face and that there are parts of Walderslade that face real deprivation. So just being able to put something back into the community, whether it’s a litter pick or supporting painting of a new community hub, is just something that’s nice to do.
“From a Member of Parliament perspective you see so many people in the community when they reach crisis point and sadly they’re not necessarily aware of some of the activities that are out there for them that may well have prevented them getting to that crisis point. This is why I think hubs like this are absolutely essential. I now see that on a national scale from a loneliness perspective and making those connections is so important.
“Locally, you can make a real difference. When I’m home and go out on a litter pick, something as simple as that, you can see the difference you’ve made; if cleaning graffiti off a wall, again, it’s an immediate difference. Sometimes, it’s very difficult as an MP in the national parliament and you’re working on national legislation, as you don’t necessarily see the difference you’re making due to the long implementation process of legislation you’re involved in. Here, there’s an instant change and working on the casework as an MP, with people coming in talking to me about the support they need, is actually the most rewarding aspect. Just this morning, I bumped into someone who wanted to thank me for something I did three years ago to help her, and she got quite emotional. It’s nice to meet the people we help, and it’s much more rewarding to be here and visible instead of just having a electronic or phone conversation.
“The loneliness strategy is out now and you will see in it a great deal of connectivity between service providers. Obviously you’ve got the council involved but actually what you want to see is more people being involved, like the doctors’ surgeries, making people come and connect to their local communities. 1 in 5 GP appointments are not medically based but actually driven by loneliness and actually if you can reduce that by encouraging people to come to a community hub, meet new people, learn new skills and do some exercise then that’s a great leap forward.
“The Chairobics and Time to Talk activities that the Net is doing are absolutely brilliant. I’m a big fan of talking therapies, mindfulness and meditation, and the sooner doctors’ surgeries begin to prescribe mindfulness to people the better. And sometimes, these smaller, cosy sessions work better than sessions in a big, more clinical space.”
Huge thanks to Tracey for her time and her support for the Hub. We look forward to playing our part in the overall national strategy.