A squeal of delight as a bingo number is called out, a crease of concentration at jigsaw puzzle pieces spread across the table and, in the background, the sound of a kettle boiling,
Art, crafts, games and companionship are all part of a project in Margate supporting vulnerable adults.
The Community Project at Union Church in Union Crescent holds three sessions a week for adults with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or poor mental health to help tackle isolation and make sure people are included in their communities.
The scheme, which had an official launch at Edessa restaurant last month, is currently supported by a legacy left to the church. Next year the project will need to apply for funding to support the service.
Project worker Yasmin Friend said: “We are trying to grow the group. At the moment we run three times a week with groups on Monday and Wednesday and a drop in on Friday. Monday mornings is our Happy Sunny Group with crafts, arts and board games. They have made book marks, keyrings and decorated biscuits.
“Wednesday is Craft Group and we always start with bingo but have crafting and have learnt how to knit.
“It is all about social inclusion in a non-judgemental atmosphere. We try and meet everyone’s individual needs.”
On a grey and cheerless Wednesday morning the atmosphere is considerably warmer after stepping into the modest church hall. A group of around ten people inside are engrossed in the games. Bunting, made of hand-crafted pieces by members and each representing an individual, stretches across half of the room. Yasmin and fellow project worker Ying Shi- known as Lily – are on hand to talk, help or just be nearby.
Isle disabilities and loneliness
Thanet has the highest number of adults with disabilities in the county, some 31,348 according to census data, which accounts for around a quarter of the isle’s residents. Around half of those would class themselves as seriously limited due to health issues.
Thanet also has the highest number of disability benefits claimants with 16,238 people claiming either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Attendance Allowance (AA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), equivalent to 11.5% of the population of the district. Sadly, the isle has the largest gap in employment for people affected by disabilities with more than twice as many non-disabled people in employment – 83%- as opposed to just 44% of those who have a disability.
Loneliness and isolation can have a crushing impact on the lives of people affected by disability, with research from the Jo Cox Commission showing 50% of disabled people feeling lonely on any given day.
The importance of The Community Project is to break that loneliness and promote social inclusion. Project manager Melody Wimhurst said: “It is about unity in the community, making sure of inclusion.
“We are also here to help our service users who are struggling. We have a mini-food bank and have helped support one gentleman who has moved from residential care into his own accommodation. We have food items, toiletries, clothing to help people when they are financially disadvantaged.”
Volunteer Jillian Hampton says the group is planning on making a second bunting after Christmas, a marker to their place in the group.
She said: “Each fabric piece represents the people who use the hall and what goes on here. Brian has done drawings, Sarah has helped with fabric panels, Mary has embroidered, there is a jigsaw representing Mark and a piece for Sylvia who used to run the group.”
The hall has capacity for up to 25 visitors per group and people are welcome to just turn up.
The groups run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The groups on Monday, 9.30am until 12.30pm, and Wednesday, 10am to 12.30pm, have a subsidised lunch. The Friday session, 10am until noon, is a drop in coffee morning where anyone aged 18 or over is welcome.
Donations of food, clothing or toiletries for the bank are also welcome.
For more details email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Melody on 07760352290