Connecting neighbourhoods in Turnhout

20 May 2022 - Published by Walter Wehus
The City of Turnhout uses link workers for senior citizens and neighbourhood coaches to improve cohesion.

From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) is a North Sea Region project that brings together people from institutions and municipalities to find new ways to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

The Belgian city of Turnhout is one of the partners in the project. For Turnhout, it is of special importance to tackle social isolation among senior citizens and increase social cohesion in neighbourhoods.

On May 10, representatives from the project partners sat down with partners from local welfare organisations at the De Schoor service centre in Turnhout. The aim was to inspire each other with cases and practical examples from the local welfare landscape.

See more photos from the visit on Facebook.

Link worker as contact point

One of the good practices from the City of Turnhout is a link worker for senior citizens, based in the Welfare Centre. In addition to being the contact point for seniors, the link worker can also pick up on needs for more social contact.

“In the first year, we did 160 home visits and reached 115 seniors. These are great results”, says Kelly Verheyen, alderman for welfare in the City of Turnhout.

The average age of seniors requesting care is 78. 82 per cent of these are single. The link worker was able to refer seniors to other care partners more than 230 times the first year.

“It is positive that most seniors keep in touch with the link worker. This means that they can ask for and receive help more quickly. Many seniors are hesitant to ask for help, so this clearly show the value of having a link worker”, says Verheyen.

I2I partners are welcomed to De Schoor.
I2I partners are welcomed to De Schoor.

Important service centre

Luc Op de Beek, alderman and chairman of Zorggroep Orion, welcomed the I2I partners to the De Schoor local service centre.

The local service centre is an open house, featuring various activities and serving meals.

“The centre plays an important role in connecting the neighbourhood. The planned addition of a neighbourhood coach and a volunteer care coordinator will be fantastic additions”, says Op de Beek.

As well as these two roles, a care coach will also start at De Schoor shortly.

Inside De Babbelbus

Inside De Babbelbus

The Babbelbus

The participants were also introduced to De Babbelbus, a mobile meeting place where residents of De Schoor are invited to think together and make suggestions for the service centre.

“The bus is a meeting place that is all about dreams, connections, and hope. It is a good example of how we can stimulate people to meet in ways that are both flexible and highly focused”, says Luc Op de Beek.

More than 1500 residents received a personal invitation to drop by the Babbelbus, with the aim to create even better services and activities at De Schoor.