9 December 2020
Connecting callers: Community First’s telephone befriending service
When lockdown first struck earlier in the year we all found ourselves working in a very different way to normal. For our staff, this also meant fielding and dealing with calls from local residents who needed help with a huge variety of tasks, everything from shopping and collecting medication to dog walking and DIY.
It quickly became apparent however that there was another, largely unmet need: People were lonely.
For those who were vulnerable, shielding, or unable to see loved ones the prospect of spending months without contact was, quite understandably, a dire one. It was an issue for staff too who desperately wanted to help clients make that connection but had nowhere to refer them to.
Whilst some local befriending services were operating these tended to be very area or age-specific. What we needed was a scheme that didn’t have those restrictions and that we were confident had well trained, supported volunteers.
So we did what all good organisations do, we decided to start one. The initial pilot was run by Lorraine under the umbrella of the Volunteer Centre and took on 4 befrienders and 6 clients (and a lot of creating paperwork!). A successful funding bid to the Lottery then enabled us to incorporate the telephone befriending into the remit of our 3 Wellbeing workers Rachel Greetham, Helena O’Shea and Sharon Austen.
Under Helena’s care (as one of our wellbeing workers) the service has blossomed and is now supporting 29 befrienders to provide regular calls to lonely, isolated clients across the whole of the Community First area.
Helena says that the need for befriending is growing too, especially as we have gone through our second period of lockdown and emerged into increased restrictions. As the winter nights draw in, demand is definitely increasing.
If you know of anybody who would benefit from a befriender, please get in contact with Helena at helena.o’firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07508 702874. Please note Helena’s working hours, generally, are Mon to Wed 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, Thurs 12 pm – 5 pm and Fri 9:00 am – 12 noon.
Or, if you know of someone who would like to become a befriender, they can sign up through our Volunteer First website.