A TEAM of volunteers is being recruited to tackle loneliness and isolation on three Kendal estates.

As part of the new scheme, 'neighbourhood chaplains' will pay regular visits to residents of Sandylands, Kirkbarrow and Hallgarth to offer and provide them with support.

This could take the form of befriending - something as simple as a cup of tea and a chat - but will extend to 'helping hands' work such as basic decorating and gardening as well.

And the chaplains will also aim to put people in touch with other agencies and activities to help boost their social contacts.

The scheme has been put together by Jonny and Pamela Gios, of Kendal. In 2017 the couple, who plan to be neighbourhood chaplains themselves, set up Gateway Church, which meets at Ye Olde Fleece Inn on Highgate, Kendal.

The idea for neighbourhood chaplains in the town sprang up after members of Gateway Church conducted a survey of 200 homes in the Shap Road area of Kendal.

Mr and Mrs Gios said the main concerns people had were crime, a lack of activities for young people - and loneliness and isolation.

The couple felt loneliness - a social problem Mr Gios described as an "epidemic" - was an issue that was in their remit to address.

"I think it's a national problem everywhere," said Mr Gios. "When you talk about loneliness and isolation people automatically think of older people, but it affects young people as well.

"You can have friends but still be lonely. You can have 2,000 friends on Facebook but what does that really mean?"

Indeed, according to charity the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 1.2 million 'chronically lonely' older people in the UK and nine million people who are lonely.

Mr and Mrs Gios have so far got a total of seven people from Gateway Church on board and have trained them, but are looking to get other churches involved as well.

"We'd love other people from other churches to volunteer, if they have got a passion for their area," said Mr Gios.

"We are not precious about doing this on our own."

The plan is to put cards through people's doors on the estates, taking them one road at a time. If a resident does not want to be visited by the neighbourhood chaplains, then they put the card up in their window.

In addition to the support the chaplains will provide in their visits, they will also be able to point people in the direction of further assistance.

Mrs Gios said: "We are not there to solve everybody's problems. We can't possibly do that.

"So we want to signpost people on to other organisations and resources that could help them."

She added that, although this was a scheme run by a church, they would not force their religious views on the people they visited.

Mr Gios said: "We do what we do because faith is our engine. We want to share God's love in a practical way."

He added: "We believe the church needs to be the hands and feet of Jesus, so it's not just come to us, we go to you."

The couple are looking to start the neighbourhood chaplains scheme in the new year. They are in the process of applying for grant money to help support it but, even if those applications are unsuccessful, they would still go ahead with their plans.

Daniel Pattison, head of communications at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: "There is still a huge stigma around loneliness.

"For many people, admitting they are lonely is really difficult. And that can make identifying people who are lonely especially hard.

"That stigma is stopping people from seeking the help and support they need, and we have to change that.

"There are risk factors that make people more likely to be lonely - if they live alone, if they have suffered from a bereavement, are recently retired or have mobility issues.

"There might be people in your life who fit that bill; check in on them, give them a call, make them feel listened to and cared for."

- Elsewhere, people are being encouraged to think about doing random acts of kindness as part of World Kindness Day on November 13.

Charity ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) is celebrating 'Kind Cumbria Day' and has asked people to share their acts of kindness, which could include helping out someone who is lonely, online using the hashtag #kindcumbria.