Home to Home Befriending Services – a lifeline for the lonely
It is a sad irony that as our population grows, so many people feel so desperately alone. A recent survey found that more than a third of people in the UK over the age of 44 are lonely, and almost half of them have felt that way for more than six years.
Loneliness looks like the customer that visits the supermarket every single day to buy one item at a time, just to give them a purpose for the day and the guarantee of being around people. It can affect everyone, but older people are particularly and increasingly vulnerable after bereavement, or when suffering from reduced mobility or limited income.
The Royal Voluntary Service has published a series of reports that highlight the growing phenomenon of loneliness among older people and its associated health risks. For many, feeling lonely in old age is their biggest problem. Loneliness has a much wider public health impact too, as it is associated with a number of negative health outcomes including mortality, morbidity, depression and suicide as well as limited health service use.
A new befriending service
Home to Home Calls has been set up as a social enterprise, providing a daily befriending phone call service specifically for the elderly and vulnerable. The calls are used solely to check the welfare and wellbeing of users and provide the daily chit-chat that many of them enjoy and desperately need. Talking and listening. It is a simple formula, but this is often a lifeline and provides peace of mind for users’ families when they cannot be there themselves.
Home to Home Calls aims to support people to live as independently as possible, with dignity and respect. They encourage people to help themselves and to take increasing responsibility for staying active and healthy, for as long as possible, by promoting the awareness of a wide range of preventative services and community resources.
The evidence is that users feel less isolated, have a greater sense of belonging and an increased willingness to get involved in community activities. The positive impact of this relatively small intervention can be seen in both physical and mental health improvements.
“They provide a lifeline for me. I used to just stay in bed most days but now I get up and dressed. I take more interest in daily life.”
“My Befriender has helped me feel part of everyday life in a community again.”
Home to Home Calls recognises that befriending is not a cure for loneliness, but firmly believe it can be a crucial step in preventing it. They aim to be part of a cultural shift across society, which links different agencies and individuals and makes a positive impact on the lives of our most vulnerable people, before they reach crisis point. Find out more by visiting www.hometohomecalls.com
Charities and Agencies that offer befriending services
Age UK offers a befriending service, providing two different types of befriending services, which are face to face befriending and telephone befriending. Here’s how it works:
- Face to face befriending is where an Age UK volunteer befriender visits an older person in their own home, popping in for a social call, having a cup of tea and a chat for example or accompanies them to an activity of their choosing such as trips to a cafe or to the theatre.
- Telephone befriending is where an Age UK volunteer befriender will phone an older person at an agreed time for a chat. Something simple to keep an older person engaged with people in the community.
Carer’s Trust offers people a sitting service and a befriending service.
- A sitting service is simply where a trained volunteer comes to your home to spend time with the person you are caring for. The volunteer will not provide any care such as personal care, but they will be able to help with basic household tasks like cooking or making a meal or going out with them. This type of sitting service is usually free and is provided by local carer services or local charities.
- A befriending scheme offers companionship and support to you or a the person you are caring for. tThey are a great way to reduce isolation and loneliness. A volunteer regularly visits the person you are caring for, in order for you to take a short break, giving another person a chance to visit your elderly parent and socialise with them.
The Salvation Army offer a befriending service to older people who are lonely and isolated in the community. Some churches offer a volunteer befriending service where people visit an older person once or twice a week to spend some quality time with them. Learning about their life and how the Salvation Army can support them in the community whether that’s offering them meals in the evening or getting the older person set up on one of their projects for example gardening.
Scope is a charity supporting people with disabilities. Scope offers a befriending service to disabled older people the chance to short term, one to one emotional support from a volunteer. But even those with no disabilities can receive help and support from this charity. Befrienders are flexible in their working meet the needs of the older person, giving them more control in when and where they would like support or company. The befriender and older person decide when and where to meet and a regular basis and work on set goals, which could be building the older persons confidence, maintaining their social networks or develop their skills.
The Befriending Scheme
The Befriending scheme provides friendship and learning opportunities for vulnerable people, including those with mental health needs and older people, as well as people with learning disabilities. The scheme was founded as a registered charity in 1989 as West Suffolk Befriending Scheme. The scheme offers various volunteering opportunities with extra support for those who need it. Operating in drop in centres and building friendships with the communities most vulnerable people getting to know them and have them come in regularly at evening befriending clubs and weekend groups. A great service for giving older people the opportunity to meet new people and feel welcomed in their community. The scheme also runs one off themed activity days, workshops and social events for all to join.
Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind Association
Mind has it’s very own outreach team that are dedicated to delivering a befriending type of service to people with mental health problems in the community. Providing support services in Norwich and Central Norfolk. Outreach support workers will visit older people at their home or another community location of their choice (cafe, community club, etc)on a weekly basis. Helping people with their mental and physical health by motivating them to live independently in the community. Support workers help by trying to improve the quality of life for the older person and help them with building and regaining daily life skills including budgeting, cooking, shopping and health and hygiene. While supporting the older person, meeting with them regularly to chat about any of their concerns as well as helping them access other community facilities and encouraging them to join other social groups in the community.
Marie Curie Helper Service
Marie Curie Helper Service provides older people with a volunteer who will meet the older person regularly to have a cup of tea and a catch up, or help them get to an appointment or support them in running an errand. Marie Curie volunteers are dedicated to offer the best service to older people by learning a bit about the older person, what their interests and needs are, ensuring they are trained for every aspect of the job. A volunteer will spend up to 3 hours visiting the older person at their home or can talk with them over the phone. It is entirely the older persons choice, depending on how they feel each week and whether they are up to the meeting or not.
Age Concern Norfolk
Age Concern offers a befriending service, it’s funded by the National Lottery, offering trustworthy and caring volunteers to visit an elderly person in their own home to provide companionship and support. Giving the older person a chance to talk to someone on a regular basis, getting to know each other and sharing experiences and conversations about things they find interesting.
The Voluntary Network
The Voluntary Network was originally established by members of the community who identified the need for community transport to vulnerable people in the community to help them maintain their independence in getting out and about in the community. Offering vulnerable people transport in Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, East Cambridge, South Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk. Since then the Voluntary Network has expanded to offer not just transport but a befriending service to older people. It’s a free service for those over the age of 65 who are not suffering with dementia or severe mental health issues.
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