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  • Staying well, connected to others and resilient

Neighbours Connect Southmead Beating social isolation by connecting neighbours


Neighbours Connect Southmead is a Bristol-based project delivered by Southmead Development Trust and Bristol City Council's Adult Social Care. 

The project is a local initiative to tackle loneliness and isolation. We match local volunteers with the most isolated members of our community to spend time together and look at ways to improve quality of life by engaging in activities that are meaningful to the person. Activities might include going with someone to a new group or activity, chatting at home or even attending a fitness class together at the local community centre.

What is the innovation

This is a partnership with Adult Social Care to explore a new approach in how we care for members of our community. The project is asset-based, and at its heart provides support for local people by local people that is personal and individually tailored.  There is no time-limit so some matches can be long term whereby friendships emerge. There is freedom and flexibility to offer support and motivation in areas that are important to that individual rather than a one size fits all.

Our service is unique in that it is funded by Adult Social Care for preventative work in one of the most deprived areas of Bristol. 

It's rare that services and projects look at the whole person and start with where the person is at. The innovation is shifting resources in the hope of better outcomes for people and cost saving for the system. 

We've adapted during COVID19 to offer support in getting food, prescriptions and befriending calls to those most in need. 

What is the problem this innovation solves

Isolation and loneliness impacts on all aspects of someone's health and wellbeing - our service support people to feel more connected. 

Adult Social Care are seeing more cuts from central government and need to find new ways that are cost effective - our service supports people with their packages of care providing additional social support on a voluntary basis. 


We think that a strong community is one that is connected to each other, where neighbours look out for each other and where people feel part of things. Neighbours Connect Southmead encourages this. By using an asset-based approach we aren't looking at delivering hand-outs which would create learnt helplessness or dependency, but rather support local participants to grow in confidence within their skills and interests and feel a part of their community.

Evidence base

There is a growing evidence base that holistic, person focused work creates greater community capacity and connectedness. Working alongside the Social Prescribing movement with the recognition that doing social activities and creating more connection in our society has a wide positive impact on our wellbeing as a whole. This in turn reduces adult social care spending. We know social isolation is prevelant in our modern society and impacts physical and mental health. 

Expected impact

Greater connection between neighbours will build stronger and more resilient communities. Supporting people who are isolated to gain their independence will improve their health and wellbeing, which in turn will reduce the pressure placed on adult social care resources.

Community development in an asset-based way will grow as the service supports people to develop their interests and skills. For instance a group of participants and volunteers started a card games club in the community centre after it was identified that there was a gap for this in their community and a desire to do it. 


Neighbours Connect Southmead is a two year pilot project, operating in the Southmead ward of Bristol. Southmead is a ward that faces health inequalities and is in the top 10% of most deprived wards in the country. 

We are currently still feeling the impact of COVID19 and working with the council to find new funding streams after March 2021 when our funding will cease. 

What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do to enable it to develop

1. Councils need to be open to new approaches to care - to fund more local community groups and give more choice to those that are receiving the care.
2. Community organisations need to have a focus on community building with an asset-based approach.
3. As a society, we need an understanding of the social determinents of health and how health inequalities impact every aspect of health & wellbeing. 

What would kill it

The project not being extended after the two year period. Further cuts to funding and community investment. If there was lack of evidence that this service model was cost effective and saved money for adult social care then the funding would be cut. 

Where to go for more information

Website https://www.southmead.org/ 
Email neighbours@southmead.org
Phone 0117 950 3335
Address Southmead Development Trust, Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, BS10 5PY