Luton Irish Forum granted almost £400k by National Lottery to reduce loneliness of older Irish people
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Luton Irish Forum granted almost £400k by National Lottery to reduce loneliness of older Irish people

LUTON Irish Forum is celebrating after receiving a huge grant from the Big Lottery Fund to reduce social isolation in the elderly Irish community.

There are over 3,000 older Irish people living in the Luton area, of which one-in-five live alone – meaning as many as 600 elderly members of the Luton Irish community spend many of their days with no one to speak to.

The number of older people is expected to increase by 40 per cent in the next 20 years – so the increase in funding could not be coming at a better time.

“This National Lottery grant will make a substantial difference to some of our most disadvantaged, often lonely members of society,” said Tom Scanlon, Chair of Luton Irish Forum.

“We are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for recognising the impact of this vital support.”

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Luton Irish Forum (LIF) was established in 1997 as a representative community organisation to safeguard the needs of local Irish residents.

Working alongside health and social care services, LIF have supported more than 500 people in the past year to overcome social and welfare issue.

The £376,995 grant from the Big Lottery Fund will support a further 500 isolated older people – promoting independence and encouraging older people to use the services available to them.

The Luton Irish Forum's Welfare Team at Kathleen Connolly House (Picture: Keiron Hillhouse)

This funding aims to support a further 500 isolated older people. Whilst they promote independence, LIF also encourage older people to access the full services available to them.

It will also help in safeguarding the future of LIF’s social clubs, classes, and outings that teach new skills and improve physical and mental health.

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Computer classes, Tea and Chat, Tuesday & Wednesday Clubs and trips to the beach are all key to the programme.

One older Irish member who uses the services said: “I have got computer skills and knowledge of different events going on in and around Luton in the Irish community”.

Another explained: “I go to bingo on Tuesdays and enjoy the company.”

In Luton, one-in-10 older people are Irish and many are unable to meet their basic needs and as a consequence have poor quality of life.

Thanks to the National Lottery funding, a new welfare officer will respond to the increase in welfare service enquiries and help people to access the support they need.