Why ten is our favourite number…

Been involved in seafaring? Join a telephone group with other Seafarers


It’s free and fun, just like chatting in the mess, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.”


Seafarers Link is celebrating its tenth anniversary with an ambitious target of creating an additional 10 telephone friendship groups for former Seafarers and dependants.

The project hosts free conference calls for former seafarers and their families in a partnership between Community Network and both SFUK and MN Fund.  It was devised in response to recommendations in a major report on Seafarers welfare, Supporting Seafarers and Their Families: The Challenges for the Future, commissioned by Maritime Charities Group in 2007.

Seafarers Link promotes social inclusion across retired Seafarers and their families.  Stories are shared, friendships sustained and fun is had during fortnightly telephone links that members join at a set time from the comfort of their own homes.

“Since we started in 2007 we’ve connected over 10,000 calls and developed 17 groups,” explains Chris Rankin, MBE, MNM, Project Manager, “our trained volunteers host telephone chats with up to six members participating in each call.  Members come from across the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Merchant Navy and more recently groups for wives/widows and WRNS groups have started.  Up to 6 people take part in each chat – do consider being involved or recommending a family member who has a seafaring connection.   If you want we can explore with you setting up a specific ‘Ship’ group including people who you sailed with or when you were shore based but now live in different parts of the country.  Calls are free, very flexible and we can design a friendship group to your specific requirements.”

To try out or to join a group at time convenient to you contact Chris on 020 7923 5250 or 01752 812674 or email her chris@community-network.org

Good morning, Angels

Beating the summer time blues

Good morning Angels!” chirped Lance on joining the call. “You sound very lively today,” Edith observed of Lance.

It’s August, pouring with rain and peak holiday time. You’re in a longer than normal airport queue. Heading abroad to a central or southern Europe heatwave, or have arrived and find yourself on full forest fire alert. Maybe it’s time to pack your wellies and waterproofs ready to huddle together at a UK resort. More like “Good morning campers!” perhaps.

For Lance, Edith and their telephone group friends a staycation is the routine. Holidays are things that happen for others now. And summertime, just as much as Christmas holidays, can amplify feelings of loneliness, summertime blues. . . unless of course you meet up regularly with friends in your telephone group.

Having the privilege to be a guest facilitator for this group I found myself on an entertaining journey as members exchanged life experiences. We went from Guyana to Gamages, London Eye to the Lyons Tea House and had croissants watching the women’s Tour de France (“I didn’t know they had a ladies’ tour until it went past my window.”). The hour whizzed by, just like the cyclists.

Our holiday was virtual. All in the mind. Happy times conjured up by telephone group participants’ conversations sparking off so many connected memories. A sense of belonging created. The worth of peer supporting telephone communities, for me, richly affirmed.

In the happy knowledge that Lance, Edith and the others will have their volunteer facilitator, Shani, back with them again later this month, I’m off now to pack my tent. I’ll be pitching this, weather permitting, whilst on holiday in the Wye Valley,. The campsite’s river is rising and I’ve been told there’s limited telephone reception. But don’t worry, I’ll be encouraging fellow campers to store memories to share with friends in future years . . . to share in telephone groups of course.

Working with GP surgeries

Last week we hosted a workshop at the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group Practice Nurses and Health Care Assistants Annual Conference. We engaged attendees in the loneliness tackling work we do at Community Network and specifically about the launch of our GP Practice based telephone peer to peer support pilot in Hertfordshire.

Practice Nurses at the workshop with the chocolate quiz prize


GP surgeries are ideally placed to signpost patients who are lonely and give them an opportunity to join telephone friendship groups.  We are recruiting one or more GP surgeries in rural locations to work with us, helping older people to make friends, help each other and combat loneliness via volunteer facilitated telephone groups.

Attendees completed a short quiz(with a chocolate prize!) on the effects of loneliness on health and well being. Thanks to everyone who attended the workshop.  Feedback has been very positive and we are following up the interest shown.












So, have you heard of Twiddlemuffs? They are hand knitted muffs that have been specifically designed with the addition of buttons, beads, ribbons and zips to provide simple stimulation for active hands. People experiencing health conditions including dementia and arthritis can find them comforting.

And why are we interested in them? Well, two of our telephone group members recently discovered during a phone group conversation that they had hobbies in common – making twiddlemuffs.

We’ve now supported them to share contact details so they can exchange favourite knitting patterns.

This is a wonderful example of what makes our telephone groups so special.

They work because they are led by the members, not by us. Members look forward to their Community Network telephone group calls; we place them in a group with peers from across the country and all of a sudden they can combine to support one another, or in this case, support one another to support others!

Our groups belong to our members, they give them the opportunity to participate as equals in a place where their input is valued and as a result of all this they have improved mental wellbeing.

…and if you are interested in seeing an example ‘Twiddlemuff’ (with thanks to NHS Warrington and Halton NHS Trust) here you are.

…for more info on our telephone groups contact us.



Happy to chat? We are!

Our joint response with The Phone Co-op on launch of Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness launched last month taking forward the work she started before her tragic death.

Bringing together a cross party group of MPs with 13 charities including Royal Voluntary Service, Action for Children, Refugee Action and colleagues at The Co-op, the Commission will be shining a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Jo Cox put it perfectly: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’

Loneliness can affect people of all ages, from the bullied school child, to the new mother, to the pensioner who has outlived her friends and immediate family.  Tackling loneliness requires us all to contribute.

As The Campaign to End Loneliness and now The Jo Cox Foundation are gathering momentum across government, charity and business sectors we wanted to pledge our support.

Working together Community Network and The Phone Co-op have been tackling loneliness, working in partnership specifically using telecoms, enabling lonely people to connect in groups by phone.

Robert Edmonds, Chief Executive Officer of Community Network added: “Combating loneliness is at the heart of the service that we are delivering in partnership with The Phone Co-op”.

We combine with The Phone Co-op to host our Talking Communities bringing together groups, over the phone, of up to six people and giving them opportunities to socialise and gain telephone friends.  If you are involved with one of our groups or are a charity or community group already using our teleconferencing for social purposes, please spread the word. If you want to find out more about how to get started get in contact.

We’ve now signed up to the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation campaign. Loneliness is something that we can all help to combat, one conversation at a time.  We’ve pledged to be ‘Happy To Chat’.

Whether on the phone or face to face, let’s all join with the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation, campaign. You can find out how to pledge your support here.


1 Community Network is a charity and social enterprise using telecoms for social benefit. Based from Archway, North London, it works across the UK to combat social isolation, loneliness and their devastating effects on health. Since 1989 it has been bringing socially isolated people together to build talking communities, telecoms enabled peer support. The groups are hosted by trained volunteers and help people to engage with others, build confidence, increase self-esteem and improve mental health and well-being. Community Network specialise in supporting charities and community groups in setting up and hosting talking communities, getting people together over the telephone. www.communitynetworkprojects.org

2 The Phone Co-op is a telecoms and internet service provider based in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and in Manchester. It is a consumer co-operative, owned by its members, who are its customers. It provides products and services (phone, mobile and broadband as well as business data services) to residential and business customers throughout the UK. It also provides teleconferencing facilities for charities, not for profit organisations and other co-operatives. Driven by its members, it has a strong focus on ethics, both social and environmental. The Phone Co-op has over 30,000 business and residential customers, over 70 employees and more than 11,700 members. It started trading in 1998 and has grown steadily since then and now has a turnover of over £12.5 million. www.thephone.coop