Work in Wooler helps to prevent social isolation

Keith Wilkinson of Four Housing, Ian Arnold of Men in a Workshop, Derek Picken, Ray Kirton and Brian Sparrow.
Keith Wilkinson of Four Housing, Ian Arnold of Men in a Workshop, Derek Picken, Ray Kirton and Brian Sparrow.

A Glendale charity designed to help older men in the area to learn new skills and tackle social isolation is receiving support from Four Housing.

The social-housing provider has partnered with the Men in a Workshop project in Wooler to restore five memorial benches which will be installed at its nearby housing development at Horsdonside.

Project members will be repairing the benches by sanding and painting or treating them with an oil finish to restore them to their former glory.

Four Housing has previously contributed funding to provide much-needed tools and materials for the group.

Keith Wilkinson, clerk of works, said: “We’re delighted to engage Men in a Workshop to undertake the restoration of the benches at Horsdonside. The project is going a long way towards helping tackle social isolation which is an increasing social issue, particularly in more isolated rural areas like north Northumberland.

“The benches are being restored to their former glory and they will be a real asset at Horsdonside once the development is complete later this summer. They will be part of a social hub within a landscaped area of the site which will help bring residents together.”

The £1.9million Horsdonside scheme comprises eight two-bedroom houses and six two-bedroom bungalows, available from early autumn.

Service manager Ian Arnold, who oversees the Men in a Workshop sessions and provides one-to-one support to members who need extra help in developing their confidence and skills, said: “Men in a Workshop is open to older men of all abilities and from all backgrounds. Projects like the one we’ve been tasked with by Four Housing are ideal for members to work together and hone their skills. To see the new benches on display as part of a prestigious new development within the local community will, I’m sure, instil a real sense of pride.”

Men in a Workshop launched in 2014 and is operated by the Royal Voluntary Service to offer older men the chance to share, learn and use skills that may otherwise go to waste, while providing an opportunity to meet new people.

Roz Tinlin, area manager for the Royal Voluntary Service, said: “The workshop for the men is proving to be a tremendous success, a place where they learn, share skills and socialise. Demographic change means that there is an increasing number of older men living alone. Projects like this which play a part in helping to tackle social isolation are therefore increasingly crucial.”