Tim’s Blog: Thank Yous and Feedback for the New Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver Christmas we got some very touching “thank yous” from our beneficiaries and referees. It is really satisfying to read such personal accounts of the difference a small donation of a radio or TV set can make – for people all over the UK.

For instance, this message came in on a Christmas card from a lady living in a homelessness refuge.

“To whom it may concern,

Sending many thanks your way!

A huge thank you for the television for my room – I am in hospital at the moment and to have a TV will make such a big difference upon my return.

Once again thank you,


And a referee from the Together Working for Wellbeing charity, which supports people with mental health issues, sent us a note to say she was “so pleased Mark’s TV will be in time for Christmas!”

We were touched to be told, “you are so helpful, and will change lives and aid the path to recovery and wellbeing.”

I hope that the New Year brings Nicola, Mark and all our beneficiaries strength, good fortune and fulfillment. And our donors can certainly pat themselves on the back for making a difference. A longer message from a referee at St Mungo’s let us know exactly how our TVs help people coming out of homelessness.

St Mungo’s Michael told us,

“The clients who received the loaned television sets were of varying ages and support needs but shared the common factors of social isolation and financial hardship. All five sets were given to formerly homeless clients who were moving out of either a shared hostel environment (where there was a communal television) or were moving directly from the streets to their own independent accommodation – usually a studio or one bed flat.

“Two of the clients suffer from depression and anxiety treat with valium , one has a psychotic mental illness and two have a combination of depression and are also recovering drug / alcohol addicts. I have had feedback from four of these clients. All five clients were also supported in obtaining TV licences, in four out of five cases by the Cash Easy Entry / Payment Card Scheme, the other client paying by direct debit.

“A common theme in the clients’ feedback is just how important a television set has been in alleviating social isolation (statistically, the single most important reason why tenancies for formerly homeless people fail) and assisting with tenancy sustainment – preventing abandonment of accommodation and a return to the streets. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that without provision of a television set, at least one of these five clients would have returned to rough sleeping.”

This feedback warmed my heart, knowing that WaveLength can help lift people out of isolation and poverty just by providing a TV.

Michael also included a quote from a client called, Nicholas, 59, a former rough sleeper who suffers from psychotic episodes. He spent six months rough sleeping in Bristol and London and a further eight months in a hostel for homeless men before being allocated a housing association flat in Lambeth.

Nicholas says, “In the hostel there were always people around to talk to and I could watch (the communal) television in the evenings and at meal times. When I got my flat I suddenly had no-one around again and it was so quiet. I was therefore very happy when I received the television.”

So here’s to making a difference, to the most vulnerable people in our society, with comfort, contact and companionship!

Happy New Year!

Feedback: Women’s Aid Leicestershire, and Helping Individuals

feedbacklettercolindaleWe get quite a lot of feedback from our organisation partners, but not so much from individuals who we help after referrals from their social workers, housing officers, community leaders etc. This is because these people often struggle to get through the days due to their isolation and other situations. However, sometimes we do get a letter that touches our hearts.

This letter from a lady in Colindale brought a lot of smiles to our face at the office.

Transcript: “To whom it may concern,

“I would just like to express the deepest gratitude for all your help in getting back on my feet. I have been suffering with anxiety disorder and depression for quite some time now and it had really brought me down, but since I met my housing support officer John, he has been helping me and motivating me to get back on my feet with your amazing help. Once I have the neccessities in my flat such as furniture i.e. a cooker I am very confident I will be able to stabilise myself. I am currently working alongside the job centre writing a business plan so in the future I can run a successful make up and beauty business, which I am qualified in.

“Once again thank you so much.”

It’s really touching to hear of the difference we’ve made to people struggling to lift themselves up out of isolation.

Women’s Aid Leicestershire

A Women’s Aid refuge in Leicestershire that we support with radios in Leicestershire has asked its residents for statements on how they’ve made a difference, and received some lovely comments.

“Children dance around the room to the music”

“It lifts my mood, makes me feel good, when I’m cleaning my room I put the radio on”

“It makes me feel really happy; I can listen to three Asian radio stations. I don’t watch TV or read so it really really helps it is my friend”

“Relaxes you, everyone can listen to their own choice of music whenever they want to”

People often don’t believe that radios are still relevant and useful in the present day, but we’re constantly told how useful they are. Not only do they mean no-one has to pay a regular TV licence fee, but they provide a manageable amount of stimulation for people who need to be able to control their own living spaces. Many people who have intrusive mental health symptoms need this level of stimulation, and since we’ve been working with refuges for those escaping domestic violence, we’re hearing that the ability to get companionship from a choice of radio programmes makes a huge difference.

To read more about WaveLength’s work with Women’s Aid refuges, click here.

Women’s Aid Leicestershire (WALL) says,

“A refuge is a safe house where women with or without children can live free from abuse and have time and space to recover and start to take control of their lives. When in refuge women are provided with help and support to enable women to move on to permanent accommodation or accommodation that is more suited to their needs.

“Our refuge prides itself on being a friendly welcoming and safe environment where women can feel at home and get to know other women and receive necessary support from workers and other women in similar circumstances, as well as basic counseling, practical help with benefits, money, housing, health, education and training, social and cultural activities and sign posting to other relevant services. Our refuge is a 7 bedded refuge in total we can provide support for 7 women and 6 children and any given time. Last year on average we supported 47 women and 35 children.

“Many women and children that arrive at refuge come with only basic essentials or nothing at all and often with no financial support or means to finances. The first few days or weeks can be very lonely, isolating and scary for the women and children therefore the radios donated have really help overcome some of these barriers and fears.“

Making a Difference at HULLHARP

We recently donated a large television to HULLHARP, a network of homelessness centres in the Hull area.

It was great to get this feedback from HULLHARP centre worker Ed:

“The television is in the communal area of one of our supported houses, which has 10 bedrooms and is nearly always full.

“At the present time, we have a number of Polish residents and they have been able to ask Polish-language channels (I’m a bit technically illiterate so I don’t know how this works)! This has been really beneficial because most of the Polish residents have little or no English and so having TV in their own language has been excellent in terms of providing a social focus within the house as well as entertainment.”

We know that supportive social networks are useful for anyone going through tough times, and we’re thrilled that our TV is helping people to give each other support in HULLHARP’s centre. And it’s remarkable how many people can be helped by a single donation to a homelessness centre!

To find out more about HULLHARP, visit their website

Lovely Feedback for Christmas!

We were thrilled to get some great feedback recently from a really lovely beneficiary in Leicester. Mr Brown became homeless after having to give up his job to look after his terminally ill father. He was placed in a hostel and suffers from loneliness and isolation after the death of his father.

But now, Mr Brown has a place of his own – and WaveLength helped him to feel at home.

He wrote to us to say, “After coming out of the hostel system and getting a fresh start, having a TV and licence (with radio) is a real path to the mainstream. You are all great! Thanks – good luck.”

WaveLength supporters are great! We continue to be amazed at your generosity and consideration for people who need a little companionship in their lives. We’ve been hearing a lot lately that our TVs and radios make people ‘feel normal.’ They help people to see their problems as manageable, not a cause for despair – and remind them of the friendly society that’s out there ready to welcome them.

This was a lovely message to receive around Christmas time.

Merry Christmas to Mr Brown and to all our beneficiaries and donors!

WaveLength Visits St Mungo’s

Wavestmungos_desLength works with homelessness centres across the country. We recently visited two homes in London run by St Mungos (www.mungos.org).

Julie showed us around the Harrow Road Centre, opened in 1989 in a converted office block. This first-stage hostel is home for 41 residents aged over 50, rough sleepers referred by outreach workers, or those with enduring mental health problems. Some have come from other hostels where the different needs of the younger residents have increased their vulnerability. Many have been on the streets for over 20 years.

“Loneliness is a huge problem”

Manystmungos_harrowroad residents, with already poor coping strategies, have lost partners of 40 years or lost their homes when their parents passed away. Loneliness is a huge problem with every client group, from the youngest to the oldest. Residents lack self-esteem and confidence.

“It is scary how self-isolating they are,” says Julie.

The team at Mungo’s addresses this; they do not just provide a home for their residents, they also bring in activities and organise trips out so the residents can engage with other environments, and arrange training so clients can move on. There have been many successes including an ex-service user “who everyone had given up on” helped by St Mungo’s into an apprenticeship, now healthy and with a future.

Some, however, cannot bring themselves to leave the safety of their room within the hostel and for these clients the TV provides a lifeline, an engagement with an outside world that cannot harm them.


We spoke to one resident, Michael, who had been sleeping rough before moving to Harrow Road 4 months previously. He rarely leaves his room except to make a cup of tea or go for a solitary walk along the canal. Having been given a Wavelength TV he enjoys watching the History Channel, with the World at War a great favourite; he is not so keen on the soaps – particularly the Yorkshire accents in Coronation Street.

There is no such thing as “The Homeless”

Every client at Harrow Road is different and is treated with dignity and hope. Five members of staff, including the Deputy Manager have been service users. Each has their own recovery and each brings something extra to the team.

We were also able to visit a St Mungos Registered Care Home caring for a very vulnerable client group, one of only 3 or 4 specialist care homes in London who work specifically with those with long-term alcohol dependency issues. Many of the clients have a history of rough sleeping. In many cases their accommodation has completely broken down when drug users or prostitutes have taken over the building and forced them on to the street. With no contact with family or friends, these vulnerable people are truly isolated until they find a home with Chichester Road.

Chichester Road becomes home to the residents for as long as they want it or have to move on to more specialist care.

Mick, the Manager, tells us “We don’t know what has been going on in the background… sometimes people have just been completely abandoned. Everyone who comes to the home is in crisis.”

A phone call home after 47 years

“The staff are the only people close to our resident and then they start talking about their families and wanting to make contact,” says Mick.

St Mungos facilitated a phone call for a resident who had not spoken to his sister in 47 years and then they were talking on the phone “as if they were talking yesterday”

Comfort and dignity

The staff help the client’s manage their vulnerabilities – accidents are reduced with fewer hospital stays, clients are being fed so are not so emaciated, they are no longer being abused financially. Their dignity is maintained.

Outings and activities help with engagement and cognitive improvement, but some residents cognitively cannot engage in a group activity and for them the TVs are a lifeline. Many need the comfort of their rooms, to have their own environment and make their own choices. TVs bring in the outside world and help engagement within the community of the home.

Main photo: Des, a St Mungo’s resident, was given a new WaveLength TV to bring him contact and engagement with the outside world

Tim’s Blog: Jeremy Hunt, Loneliness and Unpaid Care

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Here at WaveLength, we’re absolutely dedicated to banishing loneliness from the lives of older people and others at risk from isolation. We know what an enormous impact human contact can have on people’s lives, and know that our TVs and radios, which provide constant companionship, are best supplemented with regular visits or other social contacts.

“But I wasn’t happy with Jeremy Hunt’s comments on the “national shame” of isolated older people.

“In a speech at the National Children and Adults Services conference, Mr Hunt, our Health Secretary, said it was “badly wrong” that five million UK people say television is their main form of company.

“I’d never argue against providing more social contact for older people. But Mr Hunt’s recommended strategy for combatting loneliness through guilting families into providing more and more unpaid care for older, disabled or ill family members is an unrealistic and lazy approach.

“Many people have pointed out that a strategy of at-home care provided by the family is only realistic in societies where at least one person in the family – usually a wife, daughter or mother – is available twenty-four hours per day for care. Economic reality in the UK means that these unpaid carers are usually juggling help for relatives with at least one job outside the home. It is unfair to shift more of the burden of elder care onto people who are already overworked.

“Assuming that care is something provided by family also means that those who do not have strong family structures, including people who are childless, will be left behind. Many of the people WaveLength helps, for instance, have not formed strong family and community bonds throughout their lives, and some find this very difficult because of their conditions or circumstances. This does not make them less deserving of consistent care.

“At the same time as Jeremy Hunt’s speech, we have been told that his department is making a U-turn on councils’ responsibility to provide real care and contact for isolated people. No regulations will now be put in place to stop councils from commissioning care in 15 minute shifts, which we know mean that professional carers do not have the time to provide social contact, a chat and a cup of tea with the essential tasks they have to perform such as helping people to the lavatory or warming up a meal.

“Isolation and loneliness among housebound people is a huge national problem. But making hardworking family members feel guilty, without addressing the failings in the government’s care provision, is a lazy and unhelpful way to talk about it.”

Serena Sings!

Little Serena has lived with her family in the Belvidere homeless hostel since they fled as refugees from Syria. We’re giving them and other Belvidere families TVs and radios while they wait to find their feet. Serena can speak lots of English now and mixes it with Syrian in ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!’ She’s quickly mastered the Scouse accent!

Visiting the UK’s First Eco-Friendly Homeless Hostel!

We’re partnering with Belvidere in Liverpool, the UK’s first eco-friendly homeless hostel. Find out more as Tim visits.

Blog Post: The Belvidere Centre and a New Giving Method

Today, Tim and Deirdre are visiting the Belvidere Centre in Liverpool.

We got in touch with the Belvidere, the UK’s first completely eco-friendly homeless hostel, through the Whitechapel Centre, a great organisation that does a lot of good work in helping homeless people get back on their feet. Once a former 19th century convent now powered by photovoltaic solar cells and a ‘living roof’ of seedlings, the Belvidere is a series of apartments for families and individuals in urgent need of temporary accommodation. The hostel has just celebrated its first birthday – with a big cake baked by the residents!

It’s a great project that will keep vulnerable people off the streets when they’re at their most desperate. And WaveLength is setting the apartments up with TVs and radios to give a much-needed sense of normality and connection.

New Partnership Method

This partnership is the first time that we’ve worked with a hostel, but we hope it won’t be the last. Working with an organisation, rather than with individuals, lets us spread the initial cost of the equipment to many people. Several people will move in and out of the apartments during the life of the TV or radio, meaning that every pound we receive from donors will go even further. We hope that our equipment will help these adults and children to stay in touch with their communities, and ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness at a very stressful and scary time.

We’re excited about spreading our new method of funding centres to more organisations over the next few years. Please do get in touch if you think WaveLength would be a good fit for your beneficiaries!

The change to funding centres means that our supporters’ kind donations go even further. For the cost of one radio or TV, the Belvidere can help new people every few weeks or months for the life of the equipment – potentially hundreds of people. So please, if you can, visit just giving.com/wavel to donate any amount, however small, to help out the isolated and lonely people in our communities.

For more about Belvidere and our shout-out for organisation partners, watch Tim’s video on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qm6SiIqaB30

Women’s Aid & WaveLength


“They’re isolated from their communities. They’re isolated in their relationship, and the the refuge can be isolating as well.” WaveLength provides women’s aid centres with free radios, TVs and DVD players to fight the isolation suffered by women and children who’ve been abused. Here, centre workers tell us how abusers deliberately isolate their victims to the point where they find it hard to adapt to normal life.

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada.

Go Digital Trial: Making Radio Help Schemes Inclusive (Press Release)

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.  

Because of WaveLength’s work donating TVs and radios to isolated people living in poverty, Tim knows that many different impairments, physical and mental illnesses, and circumstances like domestic violence or homelessness, can restrict people’s ability to access the written word. This means they are extremely reliant on radio to stay informed, entertained and in touch with the outside world. “It’s like a trusted friend,” said one vulnerable Bath trial participant.

However, Go Digital trial participants were very limited: only including blind people, those over 75, and those who needed support on a daily basis (i.e. residential support). Most notably, it didn’t collect data on literacy – even though 59% of vulnerable participants said they couldn’t understand the written and on-screen instructions.

Even among these people, success was mixed – but the Government is presenting the trial as a success for digital radio. In fact, nearly 40% of vulnerable people included found it difficult to set up their new sets, and 19% found it difficult to use them once set up. This figure increased for certain groups; e.g., 25% of elderly women found it hard to use. As a result, 40% of vulnerable people say they will not choose to buy a digital radio set unless they have to.

WaveLength believes that Government needs to set up more comprehensive trials to survey the effect of a potential switchover on all vulnerable consumers. This includes people who will have trouble affording, picking out, and setting up a new radio, and those who rely on radio due to low literacy levels and/ or inability to afford a TV licence or use a TV. With real information in place, a digital radio Help Scheme can make proper provision for the people most at risk of isolation from loss of radio.

Value of TV: How Women Fleeing Abuse Stay Connected

When your life’s been turned upside down by domestic violence, you can become incredibly isolated. Refuge staff tell us how having a TV and radio gives women and children something to talk about with new people and helps them to feel ‘normal’ and connected to the world.

Read more about WaveLength’s work with Women’s Aid here: http://wavelength.org.uk/womens-aid-lanarkshire/

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. For more about Andy’s work with WaveLength, go to http://wavelength.org.uk/?s=Andy+Cato

Go Digital Bath Trial

The forthcoming digital radio switchover will be supported by a help scheme – but who needs support, and how much do they need?

The ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath attempted to answer these questions, but WaveLength is unconvinced that people will get the support they need.

You probably know that 2012 saw the big switchover from analogue TV to digital in the UK. Millions of people had to buy new equipment in order to access the new service, and WaveLength CEO Tim Leech sat on the Consumer Expert Group (CEG) committee, set up to guide the Government on a digital switchover issue including Help Scheme for vulnerable people.

When 50% of radio listening switches to digital, and digital coverage is decreed as good as FM, a similar switchover will take place with radio services. At the moment the CEG is working to produce recommendations showing which people will be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ by a switch to radio, and so will need a Help Scheme when the switchover happens.

WaveLength is dedicated to helping the most vulnerable and isolated members of society. We support the transition to digital radio, as it could offer greater choice and accessibility to our beneficiaries. However, it’s crucial that an adequate Help Scheme helps vulnerable people make the switch, and stay in touch with the outside world. Participants in a recent short-term Go Digital trial in Bath, which lent vulnerable people digital radios, spoke unambiguously about their need for radio. “It’s like a trusted friend,” said one isolated person; a sentiment we constantly hear from our beneficiaries.

Nearly 40% of vulnerable people included in the Go Digital trial found it difficult to set up their new digital radios, and 19% found it difficult to use them once set up. This figure increased for certain groups; e.g., 25% of elderly women found it hard to use. As a result, 40% of vulnerable people say they will not choose to buy a digital radio set unless they have to. There are still serious problems with digital radio accessibility.

What’s more, the Go Digital trial participants were very limited: only blind people, those over 75, and those who needed support on a daily basis (i.e. residential support) were trialled. This misses out a lot of people.


WaveLength believes two key factors should contribute to Help Scheme eligibility: ability to pay for a new digital radio, and ability to access the written word. People who struggle with the written word have greater reliance on radio as an auditory information source. They also face more difficulty with new purchase decisions due to reading information inaccurately. Currently the Government is not including literacy in Help Scheme criteria, and didn’t collect data on literacy in the Go Digital Bath trial – even though 59% of vulnerable participants said they couldn’t understand the written and on-screen instructions.

Radio switchover will have more impact on people living on limited incomes than the TV switchover did, as neither a licence nor a fixed address is needed for a radio, making it an invaluable accessible information and communication tool for many, in particular:

  • homeless people/ rough sleepers;
  • refuge residents who are fleeing domestic violence;
  • young people leaving care;
  • refugees and asylum seekers;
  • people with specific and non-specific learning difficulties;
  • people moving in and out of hospital due to poor mental health and/ or chronic illness;
  • the prison population.

The Government says it is ‘committed to (looking at) the full range of human factor issues’ to determine who will most need help. However many groups of vulnerable people were not included in the latest Go Digital trial in Bath. Lost access to radio for some of these groups could leave Government falling short of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which identifies communication and access to information as human rights.

More research needs to be done on the needs of the groups above. Currently, data is not collected on the needs of all elderly and disabled radio users, nor those whose situations make accessible radio crucial. Notably, no data is available on those who do not have a fixed home address.

The TV Help Scheme helped those aged 75 and over, those in receipt of certain disability-related benefits, registered blind or partially sighted, or who had lived in a care home for six months or more. These people need to keep access to radio. However, those already helped by the TV Help Scheme already have access to digital radio stations through their digital TVs. this has been shown to be particle helpful to blind people in the Go Digital Bath trial.

How can we include people?

The CEG has already recommended that eligibility for a radio Help Scheme should not simply replicate that for the TV Help Scheme. Some 10.5 million people would be eligible for help under these criteria, but a further 11.8 million people would be left out, especially those unable to work with the written word. WaveLength believes Government needs to adopt wider criteria, including:

  • using pension credits and tax credits to identify people on low incomes;
  • establishing a register of disabled people similar to the one which exists for the blind and partially-sighted;
  • using Access to Work records, covering five year periods;
  • using educational and medical assessments and statements as evidence of impairment or lack of access to the written word;
  • using local authority records to identify young people leaving care;
  • providing help through organisations such as homelessness shelters, hostels or women’s refuges;
  • working with NHS trusts, including mental health trusts, and those which track dementia;
  • working with organisations already providing radios to vulnerable people.

How To Help

We need to establish a fair and ethical system to identify those who need help, and who are less financially able to convert their listening to digital. That’s why WaveLength is placing importance on comprehensive means-testing, including prioritising help for those who don’t already have access to a device capable of accessing digital radio.

We think that equipment up to a certain set value should be made available to eligible people. In addition an extended, enhanced range should be made available through retailers, suppliers and charities, purchasable through a top-up scheme allowing individuals to upgrade basic equipment using their own funds, following the model used by the NHS to provide wheelchairs.

“My company is my television”

One of our beneficiaries talks about about loneliness and isolation and the benefits of technology such as television in relieving them.


Please share our film with others and consider making a donation to WaveLength at www.justgiving.com/wavel sing up to believe.in and support believe.in/wavelength-charity-ltd/

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. For more about Andy’s work with WaveLength, go to http://wavelength.org.uk/interview-with-andy-cato/.

WaveLength’s ‘Untold Stories’ Film

In 2013, WaveLength was selected for a Media Trust project, Untold Stories.

That meant that talented film-maker Frank Madone worked together with us to make this short film about WaveLength’s work, which was shown on the Community Channel. You can see some of our typical beneficiaries here and learn more about what we do, and how we help people.

Podcast | Subscribe in iTunes


Tim Visits Havering Women’s Refuge!


Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

Havering Women’s Centre

Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly [1] about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

To stop their abusers harming them, women or families are sent to refuges in different counties while they wait to be rehoused by the council or save up for a private rental – processes which take on average one year. Kirsty said, ‘They’re in a new borough where they haven’t got friends, haven’t got family, haven’t got a local connection. They don’t know which bus to get, they don’t know where the shops are.’

Tilly agreed. ‘You’re isolated in your relationship, then the refuge is isolating as well.’

‘Would you let a stranger abuse you 35 times?’

Abuse is controlling and slow. An abuser might start saying, ‘I don’t like you going out with him’ or ‘I don’t like you wearing that,’ until the victim is completely isolated, and feels she has nowhere to go when the abuse becomes physical.

When they come to Havering, Kirsty said, ‘A lot of ladies haven’t even gone to Tesco’s and bought their bread. It can be that mad. Mum’s literally in the house, keeps it clean and tidy, indoors, away from her friend, isolated from friends and family, doesn’t have visitors… And leaving – especially if they’ve been with their partner for a long time – it’s like learning how to live life again.’

It cuts across all cultures, professions and ages. ‘We’ve had vicars’ wives, policemen’s wives. A lady of 101 called up last week, because she’d experienced it in the past, and she needed counselling.’ Despite this, there’s still a perception that domestic abuse happens to ‘other people’ – housing office staff recently assumed a resident in her fifties was enquiring about housing for someone else.

‘Did you see EastEnders last night?’

Residents gather together to watch certain programmes, such as EastEnders, which recently ran a domestic violence storyline, on the communal TV. ‘Everyone thinks other people’s lives are perfect, so when there’s domestic violence things on, we make a point of watching it and having a discussion. It makes you feel normal to feel you’re the same as everyone else. You wouldn’t believe how important it is, talking about it.’

‘I think the DVD player’s going to be a fantastic thing to give our ladies. In the communal area, they can come in and chat with each other, the kids can hang out together, the mums can have a cup of tea… And it’s nice for the mums in the evening when the kids are all in bed and they can relax.’

‘Don’t you have a TV at home?’

When WaveLength delivers the communal DVD player next week, Havering will enjoy ‘cinema nights’ – with popcorn! – at the refuge’s ‘Kid’s Club’.

Tilly said, ‘It’s trying to get away from the stigma when the kids go to school. They’re embarrassed sometimes that they’re in a refuge, but with this we can give them a bit of normality.’

‘For the mums, it’s a bit of an escape from the day, we all need that sometimes. You’ve had a hard day, the children have been hard, and you’re sitting with your own thoughts just going round and round… it’s something to focus on. ‘


Sally’s Story: Sally had been with her partner since her teens. It wasn’t until his drive to isolate her – including banning her from speaking to her adult children – had driven her to suicidal thoughts, that a health worker told her she was experiencing domestic abuse. She came to Havering with just two suitcases.

‘It’s surprising how isolated you can be even within your own family.

‘When you come from a home where you’ve had everything, to have nothing is very sobering. To look in a cupboard and to see your own knives and forks and plates… that’s what hit me most, the feeling that it’s not your own.

‘Everything here’s just so different and you just want to feel normal, and being normal is having the TV, the radio, and you just want to feel safe. I didn’t realise I missed the radio so much until I got it. I was awake at three o’clock this morning and had the radio on. It’s a lovely thing to do, you really do make a difference when you do things like that. Music’s such an uplifting thing.

‘I need to make a home somewhere. It’s my space. It’s taking control back – if I don’t want to put the radio on, I don’t have to. If I don’t want to put the telly on, I don’t have to.’


Amy’s Story: At the moment, the centre has six children in residence. Four of them are Amy’s.

‘I struggle to keep four kids happy in the flat, and it’s difficult to manage them when I’m doing laundry downstairs. My eldest daughter Lila is thirteen, and the hardest thing she finds is that she can’t have her friends in here, so for her to be able to watch TV, watch a DVD… She comes down here and has her time for herself.

‘When we’re somewhere like this it’s nice to keep the kids in a normal atmosphere, and it gives family time which is important.’


After the Refuge

Havering is only the beginning of Sally’s and Amy’s new lives. The refuge supports residents through their transition periods, but they may flounder afterwards.

Sally told us, ‘With lots of other women you all help each other out and don’t have to make any explanations. When you’re back out there’s no TV, no radio, no kids’ club. Up to about three months women still come back because they need that connection.’

Most families moving on from the refuge can’t afford their own TVs and radios. Government grants are available; but can take months to come through. That’s why WaveLength is considering loaning TVs, through the Women’s Centres, to people like Sally, Amy and Lila when they’re ready to move on, until they get back on their feet.

What do you think? Are TV loans a good idea? Let us know how you feel about our initiatives with WACs by dropping a line to ed@wavelength.org.uk, Tweeting us at @WaveLengthHelp, or writing on our Facebook wall!





[1] All names in this piece have been changed

Tim’s blog: Scientists Say Loneliness Hurts Physical Health

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘I just had to share these moving words from a researcher from Ohio State University, Dr Lisa Jaremka, which were quoted today in a BBC article pointing out that loneliness is damaging to physical as well as mental health.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “It was a struggle for a long time for physicians to recognise the importance of loneliness in health. We now know how important it is to understand patients’ social worlds. We need to find ways to help lonely people.

‘”Unfortunately we can’t tell anyone to go out and find someone to love you. We need to create support networks.”

‘Moving words from a doctor currently researching levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, in people who are lonely and who have good support networks. Her thesis, and that of other doctors working at the University of Chicago and Ohio State University, is that social isolation leads to changes in the immune system. This causes a dangerous boost in cortisol production, and a condition called chronic inflammation which shortens life.

‘We’ve already known since 2006 that women who see few friends and family are up to five times more likely to die from breast cancer than women with good support networks. This is sobering news, but something that WaveLength and many others working with vulnerable people have long suspected. We hope that we can help in a small way with our TVs and radios.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “Being lonely means not feeling connected or cared for, it’s not about being physically alone.” Of course, a TV or radio can’t care for someone, but it can keep them connected – and bring a little comfort and companionship along too.

’This new research came to me at a time when I’m campaigning to make sure that vulnerable people in circumstances conducive to loneliness and isolation keep their access to radio. In the event of a radio switch to digital, we don’t want people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence, leaving care, mentally ill or learning disabled to be left behind as they were by the inadequate digital TV switchover help scheme. Because loneliness is dangerous, both mentally and physically, and we have a duty to curb it wherever we can.’

WaveLength Teams Up with Storybook Dads and Mums

cdsNew project aims to help isolated children through the power of technology.

As you know if you’ve been following WaveLength, people can be isolated in many kinds of ways. Some of our users live with illnesses or disabilities which prevent them from leaving their homes. Some are families fleeing domestic violence to take refuge at Women’s Aid centres. All of them can benefit through the use of technology to stay connected to society and to the people who matter to them.

We’re proud to start 2013 with a new project involving Storybook Dads and Storybook Mums. This inspirational charity lets prisoners record bedtime stories onto MP3s, CDs or DVDs, which their children can listen to or watch. Because not every child’s family can afford a CD player for its Storybooks, WaveLength will provide 100 CD players over the next year for families who otherwise wouldn’t be able listen to their Storybooks at home. These CD players will let children listen to the bedtime stories, educational books and “memory books” sent to them by parents “on the inside”.

We think that the stability and contact which Storybooks provides, for both incarcerated people and their children, is a perfect match with WaveLength’s ethos of using technology to fight loneliness and isolation.

Comfort, contact and companionship. Who needs them more than children separated from their parents?