Fun and friendship at the Elmbridge Community Link café

I really am very happy to be part of this group. It gets me out of my flat which is good for me.

A weekly befriending café, organised by Elmbridge Community Link (ECL), brings together adults with learning disabilities and/or on the autistic spectrum to spend time with friends and learn new skills.

A report by the Jo Cox Foundation showed that half of people with disabilities feel lonely on any given day. Regular contact with their peers, volunteers and support staff at the befriending café gives participants an opportunity to build relationships and grow their independence in a safe and friendly space.

The café takes place at Burview Hall in Walton, one of Walton Charity’s community buildings. During the Covid lockdowns, when face-to-face meetings weren’t possible, ECL had to find new ways to keep in touch with members and bring the group together. Online activities, quizzes and exercise classes all helped members feel connected until they could meet again in person.

Technology still plays an important role in the café sessions as participants are supported to make video calls, keeping in touch with family members they don't see on a regular basis.

The befriending café is just one of the activities run by Elmbridge Community Link. Participants can also take part in weekly art and craft workshops, a youth sports club and sessions at Walton Charity’s community allotment. The participants, and volunteers who support the sessions, love the atmosphere of the groups, and families really see the difference the sessions are making:

My daughter is spending time with people her own age… she’s getting out and about doing things out of the house, being active, meeting new people, getting new experiences. It’s brilliant but the big thing is that Georgia is doing something herself.

Tackling isolation and loneliness is one of Walton Charity’s five key priorities. Through our grants programme and our community buildings, we support local organisations and projects that encourage social interaction and help people feel more connected to their community.

Janette ButlerComment