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Northumberland launch for dog lovers’ scheme to combat loneliness

Thursday, 09 August, 2018

A new partnership which enables more older dog lovers in Northumberland to continue to enjoy the friendship of a dog and to help combat loneliness has been launched.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is working with Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs to enable volunteers and their dogs to visit socially-isolated older dog lovers in their own homes.

It is the first time the charity, which operates across the North East, has teamed up with an NHS trust to facilitate these visits for older dog lovers who would benefit from greater interaction with others.

With up to 12,000 older people in Northumberland currently estimated to feel lonely often or always and this expected to rise significantly, this befriending project aims to bring joy to those who miss the company of a dog and have a positive effect on their health.

The partnership is supported by the trust’s Bright Northumbria charity.

Diane Morton, founding director of Wag and Company, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Northumbria Healthcare to make a difference to the lives of even more older people in Northumberland.

“As the only visiting dog charity to visit people in their own homes as well as in care, we rely on referrals from professional organisations, such as the trust, to enable our service to operate.

“Many of the people we visit have found themselves unable to care for a dog any more and, at the same time, have lost family and friends. Our visiting Wag and Company teams provide much-needed friends, with two and four legs, to visit people who can often feel isolated.

“Our charity also enables people of any age with the right dog to volunteer and to befriend others across the region – our charity’s oldest volunteer is 89 years old.”

Julie Leddy, part of the support planning team at Northumbria Healthcare which refers people to the project.

She said: “The scheme is a great way for older people in Northumberland who would struggle with the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for a dog to have contact with a dog and friendship with its owner.

“In simple terms, loneliness and isolation are bad for people’s health, particularly older people. With levels of loneliness among older people high, and forecast to rise, it is our duty as health professionals to open up opportunities for greater social interaction to help people to stay well at home and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

“After all, staying well and recovering from illness is not just about taking tablets and treatment, it is also about having quality and frequent interactions with other humans and pets.”

John Robson is one resident who is benefitting from the scheme. Wag and Company professionally-assessed volunteer Sean Malone and his dog Alfie visits John, 87, at his home in Cramlington every week.

John, who used to have a dog, said: “I cannot wait for the next visit – Sean is a lovely man and Alfie is a very nice dog. We have a good chat and it’s so lovely to be able to get out for a walk.

“I do get lonely living on my own however I couldn’t manage to have a dog now. This is the best of both worlds and I think it’s a really worthwhile project.”

Northumbria Healthcare’s Bright charity supports a number of projects in hospitals and the community which provides the extras which make a difference to people living in Northumberland and North Tyneside.

If you feel you, or someone you know, would benefit from being referred to the scheme, please contact 01670 536400 and ask to speak to a support planner.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with Wag and Company visit


Media contact:

Jaclyn Curry – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

0191 203 1654 / 07833 046680