LIFELINE community groups are set to receive further support after a new report uncovered how essential they are to the wellbeing of disadvantaged residents.

Commissioned by the North East Essex Health and Wellbeing Alliance the report, entitled Overcoming Barriers to Health and Wellbeing: Community Assets in North East Essex, was undertaken by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University.

Members of six wide-ranging community groups took part in the study, three in Colchester - Project Nova, Community Halls in Partnership and DNA Networks Uniform Exchange - and three in Tendring - Clacton Dementia Cafe, Teen Talk Harwich and Clacton and District Indoor Bowls Club.

A total of 42 residents were interviewed between November and March, with a further nine interviews taking place during the lockdown period to check on wellbeing during lockdown.

The research was designed to help community leaders further understand the reality of residents’ experiences in light of poor health statistics for both areas.

Both Tendring and Colchester have high rates of self-harm and suicide, alcohol specific hospital stays, violent crime and social isolation.

Research found the organisations involved helped to create a sense of identity amongst members with many describing them as a lifeline. Some even said the groups had prevented them taking their own lives.

Dr Oonagh Corrigan, lead author of the report, said: “While these groups were all set up ostensibly for a purpose, for example a bowls club or a school uniform exchange club, we found these purposes were often of secondary importance to the users.

“The social aspect was an overwhelming benefit, allowing users to build relationships with like-minded people and feel a sense of belonging.”

A raft of recommendations were put forward in the report to help develop community assets, which will be progressed by the alliance. These includes them being offered as “social prescriptions” to residents.

It said groups should be better supported by small grant donations, particularly those in deprived areas, and also better promoted.

Going forward support should be provided to create new groups and the alliance also wants to develop free-training sessions in order to help people lead and volunteer at community assets.

Mark Jarman-Howe, chairman of the alliance, said: “The findings will help shape our priorities over the coming years, and will have wider resonance and benefit to other areas of the country as well.”

The study was designed with input from the alliance, which both Colchester Council and Tendring Council are part of.

Mike Lilley, Colchester Council’s communities boss, said: “We are committed to supporting all of our residents. However, we had major concerns about some of the health and wellbeing statistics for our area and we needed to get to the bottom of as to why and what we could do change them.

“The report confirms to me further supporting community assets is the right approach - however, there is still much more we can do to further enhance what is on offer for those in our communities who obviously need and benefit from them. It provides a lot of food for thought.”

Lynda McWilliams, Tendring Council’s partnerships chief, added: “We need to work together; the health service, local authorities and voluntary groups, to help people – our residents – in the best way we can, and this research is a valuable tool to help us achieve this.”

The report can be seen at