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LONELINESS and isolation has been a growing problem for many of us over the past year, but the loss of face-to-face contact has been especially tough for deaf people.

So charities have provided vital support – and some have remained open with social distancing to assist with day-to-day tasks. These include help with bills and letters, as people who have grown up using BSL as their first language may not be able to read written English well.”

“We get a lot of people who come in with letters from the council or their insurance company, for example, lamictal pregnancy ” says charity worker Anna Pugh. “If you don’t use communication, you lose it,” she explains, stressing the difficulties the hearing-impaired community has faced, such as finding lip-reading impossible because of face masks.

“And deaf people don’t have access to the news as hearing people do, so unless they see someone in person and find out the news from them, they may not know what’s happening.”

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Anna, manager of King’s Lynn-based West Norfolk Deaf Association (WNDA), recalls: “One person who needs physical care at home came into the centre for help because he didn’t know why his carers couldn’t visit him anymore, as he hadn’t heard the news about lockdown. Another lady only communicates by fax and she hadn’t seen anybody. She’d had meals delivered to her door, but she didn’t know they were there.

“The less you go out and use your mobility, the less confident you feel – and when people become more isolated, there’s more risk of falls, which leads to a greater risk of early mortality. So with the support we give, we’re keeping people alive.”

WNDA relies on donations, and with its charity bookshop closed during lockdown, extra funding was sorely needed. Fortunately help came in the form of a £25,000 grant from People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery East. WNDA is just one of the many grassroots projects The Health Lottery is proud to support. Players have raised over £120 million for 3,200 good causes across Great Britain – and won £157 million in prizes. Even buying just one £1 ticket means you’re helping to raise vital funds for organisations like WNDA.

“That money has helped us fund our conversation clubs and also paid for a community support worker with BSL,” says Anna.

“We make sure that every penny counts, and every pound raised makes a difference to people’s quality of life.

“If it wasn’t for that funding we wouldn’t be here, and there would be nowhere for deaf and hearing-impaired people to go, so they would end up more isolated.

“When they come here you get that communication with somebody who hasn’t spoken to anyone all day – the light comes on in their eyes. It’s so important for mental wellbeing. The deaf community is very tight and it’s been a tough time for them. We’re so grateful for the money raised through The Health Lottery; I dread to think what would happen if people didn’t have that support.”

Help to stay independent

West Norfolk Deaf Association (WNDA) is based in King’s Lynn and provides information and advice to the local hearing-impaired community to help them live independently.

Some 75 per cent of service users are over 75, so it’s a lifeline in combating isolation. WNDA supported 116 clients over lockdown, with weekly befriending visits, welfare checks and shopping.

A charity bookshop in Downham Market raises money to support the organisation, and also offers advice and NHS hearing aid maintenance.

WNDA received £25,000 in funding raised through The Health Lottery, boosting its activities that support the wellbeing of its users.

Sign up and play at healthlottery.co.uk

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