Power Networks UK partnership with West Norfolk Befriending

West Norfolk Befriending have teamed up with the UK’s biggest electricity distributor to match the company’s trained volunteers with older people who may be feeling isolated by COVID-19.

Key workers at UK Power Networks have partnered with charities to launch a telephone befriending service aimed at tackling social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. UK Power Networks befrienders will phone them regularly during work time through the company’s Donate a Day scheme, which gives over 6,000 employees two paid days annually to volunteer.

Pippa May, chief executive of West Norfolk Befriending, said: “We are a tiny charity facing increasing demand for our services so it’s incredibly exciting to work with UK Power Networks to transform the service we offer and reduce social isolation at this difficult time.

“On average we work with frail people in their nineties who may have outlived family and friends or don’t have family nearby. They are often housebound, so isolation is always there, but increased by lockdown because the few visitors they had, such as hairdressers, can’t come anymore.

“It makes a real difference to their quality of life having someone to chat with, who has time to listen. Any family they do have may be carers, but a befriender listens to them. My hope is that at the end of this lockdown the community continues coming together to tackle isolation. It doesn’t have to cost anything.”

Each volunteer is background checked to safeguard people. A priority for UK Power Networks during the pandemic is taking extra care of people in vulnerable households in the rare event of a power cut. Some 1.87 million eligible households have signed its Priority Services Register for the extra services the company provides in such emergencies, up 6% in the last year.

Kerry Potter, consumer vulnerability manager at UK Power Networks, said: “We are excited to work with our existing charity partners to provide additional support at a time when their resources are stretched and more people are contacting them hoping to form a social connection at a time when connections are much more difficult to establish.

“These charities are providing an invaluable service to customers in our highest risk groups who would be eligible to join our Priority Services Register and typically may be struggling with their energy bills. People who have been shielding during the coronavirus outbreak will have an increased awareness of how their mental health is affected by social isolation.”

The Priority Services Register provides free extra help during power cuts for pensioners, families with young children and people with special needs, disabilities or health conditions. For details visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority, call 0800 169 9970, or email psr@ukpowernetworks.co.uk.

Romina Arefin, graduate innovation engineer at UK Power Networks, who is coordinating the company’s befriending service and taking part in the programme.

We were delighted to welcome Jennifer, UK Power Networks’ training support assistant, to our befrienders team. She’s written about her experience with us here:

Reaching out to people who are feeling vulnerable and alone has never been more important. So when my manager invited me to take part in UK Power Networks’ confidential new telephone befriending scheme, Donate by Dialling, I readily agreed to be connected with someone in need of kindness and friendship over the telephone at this difficult time.

Last week, following training and interviews, I was matched by a small charity, West Norfolk Befriending, with someone who wanted a friendly ear and to chat, something we may take for granted, but which others sadly lack.

I was born in Africa and moved across three continents before the age of nine, which gave me a lot of life experience. I have gained compassion, understanding and tolerance and have developed those qualities as I’ve got older.

My manager approached me as someone who she felt has the skills to take on this important role of supporting a vulnerable person in their home. It felt good to know that people felt I had right qualities to make a difference.

I have volunteered in different ways throughout my life. To volunteer is to give back. It’s really personal and quite subjective. We are all passing through this life and I believe that when we give something, we get something back ten-fold. It’s like a miracle happening, like an angel coming, just when you needed it.

West Norfolk Befriending is a really supportive charity which understands their customers’ needs and creates a supportive environment. I had two interviews before being matched with a person who has similar interests to me. We have family in the same areas. She has a dependent and is a carer for that person and I have an elderly mother and am a carer for her. We both enjoy gardening and the allotment.

We haven’t talked about those things yet and I spent our first call listening. She is chatty and my call gave her an opportunity to let it all out. It’s another outlet now for her. Before calling I find that meditating, for even five minutes, frees my mind so that I give her my full attention. I hope that my calls give her friendship, somewhere to park some of her anxieties and frustrations and know she has a friend at the other end of the phone to listen. She will know that I will call her regularly.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us, find out more and get in touch with us here.

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Operational Support Officer

lauren@wnbefriending.org.uk

I am the Operational Support Officer at West Norfolk Befriending.