A local project run by the Community Forum, which is supported by Chichester District Council's Community Wardens, has been providing a vital lifeline to vulnerable people in Selsey and Bracklesham and the Witterings.
The Good Morning Selsey and Bracklesham and the Witterings schemes aim to combat loneliness by making telephone calls to check in on local people who may be vulnerable or who live alone.
Volunteers are available for calls seven days a week, 52 weeks a year; including bank holidays and Christmas.
The charity, chaired by local resident Mike Nichols, laid the foundations for the scheme eight years ago. Since then it has become a lifeline for many older people across Selsey and more recently a further scheme has been introduced in Bracklesham and the Witterings.
Hundreds of calls are made each day by 25 volunteers, who offer friendly support to people across Selsey and Bracklesham and the Witterings, from either the office, at home or out and about, while two part time staff members from the Community Forum coordinate the scheme.
Mike Nichols, who chairs the Community Forum, says: "Eight years ago I started working on the Good Morning Selsey scheme, back then it was only two or three people. Now we have nearly 100 residents using our service to help them connect with other people. A lot of these people only have the radio or TV to know what's going on outside their homes, so even a half hour conversation with another person can really brighten them up and help keep them connected.
"We have really come into our own during the pandemic. Before, many people were visited by their family and friends, but the risk of Covid-19 has kept everyone inside. Without these phone calls older people in Selsey and Bracklesham and the Witterings may not have had a conversation for weeks or longer.
"And, with the help of our local Community Wardens, Neil Hill and Drew Allardice, we've been able to help keep those using our service safe and looked after."
Neil Hill, Community Warden for Selsey, says the partnership has made a huge difference: "If we don't get a reply from someone for a couple days then the team will let me know. I then go round to the person's house and just check everything is okay. Sometimes they've gone on holiday or been taken to hospital, but in more serious cases they can be incapacitated in their home and then I call the local emergency services and we get them the help they need.
"The scheme really is a lifeline for many people here and thanks to Mike and the rest of the team we've been able to help a lot of people. We've also been able to put people in touch with council services that can offer further support."
The scheme receives a grant from Chichester District Council, along with money from charitable trusts and donations, so that it can continue to be delivered free of charge.
Ronelle and Amanda work as part time call managers for Good Morning Selsey. Ronelle says: "The service we offer the people of Selsey is such a lifeline. I remember one lady I regularly spoke to over the phone had a fall in the garden. Because she didn't answer her phone that morning we sent Neil round and after involving the emergency services we were able to get her the help she needed. If we had not had those regular phone calls in place, who knows when someone would have noticed that she needed help."
Amanda adds: "Because we speak to our clients for so long we can pick up on their personality, their likes and dislikes. After a while people open up and that can help us get through to them if there's an issue or pick up on slight changes that are part of larger issues."
The scheme continues to provide support for the resident, even if they temporarily have to move to another location as Mike explains: "If one of our residents goes into hospital we keep up the phone calls with them, and if they go to a care home we ring them as long as they want us to, until they feel settled. We take this approach because we know how valuable this connection can be."
"We couldn't do any of this without our brilliant volunteers and we're always looking for more. If people want to get involved and help their community they can call the Selsey Care Shop on 01243 201616 or contact the Community Wardens. After a DBS check we can give volunteers all the training and support they need."
Chichester District Council provides the Community Warden Service in five areas of the district, including Chichester East and Whyke; Chichester West; Tangmere and Oving; Selsey, and Bracklesham and The Witterings.
Roy Briscoe, Cabinet Member at Chichester District Council for Community Services and Culture, says: "We are so lucky to have such caring people in our district who give up their own time to help those who are vulnerable or lonely. As a council we are proud to support Good Morning Selsey/Bracklesham and the Witterings through both our Community Warden Service and grant funding and seeing the huge difference it makes."