Social isolation is an issue that can affect anyone, regardless, of age, race, or mental and physical health. According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.4 million adults in the UK experience chronic loneliness, but organisations such as the Front Room Club in Downham, Bromley are working to change this, and bettering the lives of those vulnerable to isolation.

The Front Room Club is a group held in St. Luke’s Church in Downham, Bromley with an aim to minimise social isolation for people of all ages. Founded in January of 2016 when a local drop-in branch of the 999 club (a charity that offers support to homeless and/or vulnerable people) closed down, the Front Room Club’s friendly and inviting atmosphere paired with the support and resources available to those who attend make for a brilliant setting for all to feel welcome and wanted.

Reverend Nick Walsh at St. Luke’s Church holds free drop-in sessions every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, which are consistently popular, peaking at around thirty members per session. Tea, coffee, cakes, and other snacks are offered to members free of charge, as well as a two course lunch every Monday and Friday for just £3.00, with food generously donated by FareShare, the UK’s largest charity working against hunger amongst vulnerable people. Additionally, members of the club have the opportunity to purchase coats, hats, and other garments at a reasonable price.

One member remarked that the Front Room Club has a “very sociable and friendly atmosphere”, and another commented on how it is “very helpful and therapeutic regarding [their] mental health, social life and stability”. In fact, members are encouraged to take part in the organisation of activities, and are essentially given the chance to run their club themselves, giving people at risk of isolation a project to be passionate about and invest their time into. As a result, frequent trips and outings to Wetherspoon’s, bingo halls, the beach, and more are arranged. In addition, the Front Room Club is regularly visited by a Parish nurse who can offer medical advice as well as perform procedures such as measuring blood pressure, as well as social care officers who can put members in touch with other helpful facilities.

As reported by Age UK, loneliness can be as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It can be associated with a range of health problems including depression, heightened vascular resistance, and sleep problems, therefore it is clear why groups such as the Front Room Club are so important and beneficial to today’s society. The vast majority of members that I spoke to were regular attendees, proving the positive impact and enjoyment that the club brings to their lives. Groups like the Front Room Club should be more widespread and recognised until the number of people experiencing chronic isolation in the UK is significantly lowered.

By Jemima McDuell