Nora Higgins addresses the Global Irish Forum
Our Chair Nora Higgins' extraordinary speech was the highlight of the opening session of the 3rd Global Irish Economic Forum.
She shared her experience of being an Irish immigrant to 1950s London with 250 delegates from all over the world including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Welcome to SIPP
Here at Southwark Irish Pensioners Project (SIPP) we provide a lifeline to hundreds of elderly, vulnerable and isolated Irish people in Southwark - one of the most deprived boroughs in London.
For the past 19 years we have been helping generations of Irish people who emigrated to Britain in the 50’s and 60’s, to get the essential support they need to enjoy a comfortable and decent retirement.
We currently support over 400 pensioners by providing a comprehensive mix of services ranging from nutritious meals and befriending, to hospital visits and benefits advice.
We are the only organisation in Southwark providing a culturally specific service to elderly Irish people. Currently 70% of our pensioners are over 75 years of age and nearly 60% of them live alone.
SIPP is also regarded as the most established and respected service in this sector in London and we have won awards for our work including an Irish Post Community Award.Our pensioners emigrated to England at a time when racism towards Irish people was rife. Many learned to survive by not talking, as their accents betrayed their origins. They left Ireland uneducated and worked in manual jobs. They socialised in their own communities - churches, dance halls and pubs. They avoided authorities and many still mistrust statutory agencies.
As a result, they rely on us now to help them to access the social, healthcare and other services they need. We fill in the gaps for this generation. We add value to the basic health, social and welfare support package provided by the State for people who remain at the margins of mainstream British society.
Our Community Support Service helps us to locate vulnerable pensioners. We befriend them and support them by helping them to access the services they need to survive. Almost half of our pensioners who access this service are men (44%). The majority are single and have become increasingly isolated with age, alcohol and/or mental health issues.
Our Community Support Service complements our Lunch Club and we mix and match services for our pensioners according to their personal preferences and needs. To do this, we have an army of over 60 well-trained volunteers who work alongside staff to help deliver both services. We could not deliver our work without them.