Blackpool charities dealing with devastating effects of social isolation welcome gradual lifting of lockdown rules

Charities that have remained on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in Blackpool throughout lockdown have welcomed the gradual lifting of restrictions that left many people struggling.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Social isolation has caused mental health problems for many - and strict safety rules mean many charities have been powerless to help

The 'rule of six' is expected to return on March 29, according to the Prime Minister's roadmap, and by May 17 it is hoped that most restrictions on socialising will be lifted. If all goes to plan, all legal limits on social contact will be removed by June 21.

This is welcome news to the many charitable organisations across Blackpool that have been dealing with the devastating effects loneliness can bring.

Jessica Johnson, who runs the STAR Blackpool mental health support group on Church Street, said: "Even during the latest lockdown we have seen a dramatic number of people struggling and we're hoping that we will be able to offer more to them, be that lunch clubs, coffee mornings, or arts and crafts. We really want to get open ASAP.

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"A lot of people have been getting in touch daily asking when we'll be opening."We have seen people go from feeling quite positive at the start of lockdown to quite negative. We have seen people's mental state deteriorating as they're trying to reach out, and it's really sad to watch."

The Amazing Graze soup kitchen on Bolton Street was stretched to its limits during lockdown, serving up to 200 meals each week not only to the town's homeless population, but to those left struggling financially due to the pandemic and months of job insecurity.

But the biggest problem the charity faced, founder Mark Butcher said, was loneliness.

People with histories of drug and alcohol abuse, who had taken strides to beat their addictions, were sent spiraling back into substance abuse as they struggled to deal with isolation and depression.

Mark said: "I'm feeling optimistic about it. I've been absolutely exhausted, and a few weeks ago we were really struggling and I wondered how we were going to carry on."

Meanwhile Kevin Long, of the Blackpool Community Homeless Project, which helps people get into affordable housing, said: "As a charitable organisation we are quite anxious because we do feel that things are speeding up and Covid-19 may come back. It would be nice for this to be the last lockdown, but I don't think it will be.

"But I certainly think that with the lockdown, mental health problems have gone through the roof, as has domestic violence. I think if lockdown is eased people will be able to go out and get support from people, which is a good and positive thing. There are pros and cons. I will be very interested to see the figures in six or eight months time."