A NEW 'friendly bench' has been installed in Halesowen town centre and has been dedicated to a former Halesowen College staff member who died aged just 32.

The bench, outside Wilko on Hagley Street, is designed to tackle loneliness and isolation and to bring communities together.

It is dedicated to Caroline Williams, who lost her battle with cancer last year, and was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Dudley councillor Anne Millward at a special ceremony yesterday (Wednesday June 9).

Caroline's husband Wayne, who works at Skate Hut, Halesowen, attended the ceremony.

The project has been spearheaded by Halesowen BID. A special plaque with Caroline's name on has been added, in recognition of work she did with Halesowen In Bloom and on countless other community projects through her role as Community Hub Assistant at the college.

Halesowen News:

BID manager Vicky Rogers said: "The project began 18 months ago when we applied for funding and to become part of the social movement to reduce social isolation.

"Halesowen is actively working to become a more inclusive town centre by supporting our businesses and community through dementia and autism awareness and the launch of lip reading masks to help hearing impaired.

"We are excited to welcome the friendly bench to Halesowen, the first bench to be installed in a UK town centre.

"We have seen the increase in mental health and social isolation more since the pandemic and look forward to being able to host events at our new community garden and welcome friends both old and new.

"We have dedicated the bench to Caroline Williams, formerly an employee at Halesowen College and an active member of our community.

"We sadly lost Caroline to cancer last year and would like to honour the work she did for Halesowen by dedicating the bench in her name."

Friendly Benches, which feature mini-gardens with integrated seating and sensory planting, are being installed across the country.

They are designed so that people can meet, chat, connect with nature, build friendships and a sense of belonging.