FUNDING has become available from an NHS body to combat rural loneliness and improve the wellbeing of the elderly across parts of North Yorkshire.

Village halls and community centres are being encouraged to apply for cash to develop local services and activities for older people who are at risk of being isolated.

The Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) scheme, Community Friendly Buildings, will build on work already ongoing through the Community Hubs project which saw village centres encourage residents to come together with clubs and events.

The funding has come from Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group, and grants of £250 to £10,000 are being made available to support projects – such as for helping carers, dementia sufferers, and looking at new technologies in health and social care.

RAY chief officer Leah Swain said: “Many village halls in rural areas are already working extremely hard to maintain their buildings and activities, but sometimes the needs of older and vulnerable people are missed.

“This project will support halls to identify what else they can be doing to reach this often-invisible population, meaning more income for the upkeep of their buildings, and reduced rates of loneliness.

“RAY was in awe of the hard work of the seven village halls who took part in the Community Hubs project over the last two years, funded by North Yorkshire County Council.

“We would love to showcase their successes through this new project.”

One of the Community Hubs is Dalton and Gayles Village Hall, near Richmond. Staff and volunteers at the hall applied for grants to update facilities so they could hold more events.

The secretary of the hall, Alison Brooks, said: “The funding has been great for us because we could run functions for residents – some of whom already had active lives, but others didn’t get out as much.

“We have seen how it has made a difference to our community and more funding can only be a good thing.”

Tess McMahon from RAY worked on the Community Hubs project and is now involved with Community Friendly Buildings.

She said: “Village halls are already hugely friendly places, but it is easy to overlook features that make involvement tricky for some people.

“There are lots of little things that can be done to make a building more welcoming and accessible, so that everyone feels they can join in.”

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