Online Support Networks

A blog post by Liz, Finance team.

Modern life has changed dramatically over the last few decades – we live further away from our families and friends, we move house more often, we switch jobs more frequently and we know our neighbours less well. This gives us lots of opportunities for different experiences, career advancement and to live in spaces we love, but it puts us at a distance from the support networks of the past. Those support networks would have given many of us direct access to a network of people offering advice, a listening ear, hand-me-down clothes, second-hand furniture, giving/receiving excess food or inviting us to share meals with them.

For many of us distance and time constraints limit the size of our natural support network and how often we can interact with it. Luckily organisations and schemes have developed that are similar to aspects of our traditional support networks. These schemes can’t wholly replace our support networks but they can certainly supplement them. Many of them will also help us to reduce our carbon footprint as they aim to reduce the amount of stuff going to land-fill by sharing, recycling and reusing.

I have used sharing sites for more than a decade, I’ve been given furniture I now cherish, and curtains that I have recently passed along again. I’ve been able to reply to requests for items I’d have thrown away but have since seen turned into table tops, mirror frames and dolls clothes. These don’t replace the natural give and take of families and friends but when you are at a distance from them or they are unable to help at a particular time, they are a great fall back.

Here are just a few examples of places to look to supplement your own support networks:

Your employer probably offers an enhanced range of benefits to their employees, check your employer’s benefits information to make sure you are getting the most out of what’s on offer. The benefits might include discounts on groceries, local deals, advice guides or handbooks, healthy lifestyle support and access to free helplines.

Your professional body many professional bodies offer additional benefits to their members. If you hold a professional membership it is worth checking whether there are any additional benefits, these might include access free webinars, retail discounts, webinars and lifestyle advice guides.

Local Community Centres and Libraries can offer you access to a wide variety of services and groups in your community these might include support groups, drop in advice sessions, free children’s events and facilities to learn more about other local services. You can usually get details of local services from your local council or wander along to the library during opening hours.

The Freecycle Network A website which allows you to join local networks of people where you can give things you don’t need or receive things you do need.

OLIO A free app (mobile & web) that connects you with neighbours with each other and volunteers with local businesses, so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.

Freegle Another site that allows you to join local networks of people where you can give things you don’t need or receive things you do need.

Meetup A platform to help you meet new people with shared interests, hobbies, activities, shared life experiences or support groups.

Advice UK A charity collating details of advice organisations across the UK, allowing you to search for advice and support services near to where you live. Advice organisations registered with Advice UK must be free to access or provide users with details of any fees up front.

Streetbank A website that helps you get in touch with other people in your neighbourhood to share, lend or borrow handy items and to give away or receive items.

Have you used other services or organisations that provide the things we miss out on from traditional support networks? Share them with us so that we can pass the information along – ♥ sharing is caring ♥.

If you choose to use any of these sites, please follow the tips and recommendations they provide for staying safe both online and offline.

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