We’re delighted to be part of Operation No Cold Shoulder offering support to ease isolation in partnership with Age UK Norfolk, Community Action Norfolk, Creative Arts East and Future Projects. Funding from this project allows us to offer Befriending in North Lynn and Dersingham. More information about Operation No Cold Shoulder is available on the Community Action Norfolk website.
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.”
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.
Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
About 75% of our clients have carers that benefit as a secondary outcome from delivering our befriending service. These could be a son or daughter living apart from their parent or a partner or spouse living in the same house. But many of these people wouldn’t consider themselves a carer. Our befriending service supports carers in many ways, both directly and indirectly.
Some of our clients that we work with are bedbound. If they live with a partner or spouse then they are an unpaid family carer. Often we match a befriender with the person being cared for, easing their isolation, but there is also a benefit to the carer. For the carer this gives them an opportunity to take a break, go in the garden or use the time to do a hobby. They also benefit from conversation and interaction with the befriender and the knowledge that their loved one is supported. Occasionally we match a befriender with the unpaid family carer. They may have become socially isolated as a result of their carer responsibilities and a befriender can help them become more socially active again.
I ring my Dad every night to make sure he’s OK. We’ve run out of things to talk about.
A befriender will listen to the stories that the carer has heard many times before. They do not have to worry about practical things like shopping, medication or laundry and so have the time and space to chat. The client will also have news from their befriender that they can share with their carer. A carer may visit their relative daily but knows that when the befriender is visiting then they are safe and have had some company that day. Befriending can revitalise and refresh client’s relationships with their carers.
West Norfolk Befriending are often able to offer other services and support for our clients and carers. Our befrienders build relationships with their clients and can gently suggest changes to the client, or we can feed information to the carer. Sometimes we’ve worked really closely with family carers behind the scenes to ensure very vulnerable clients are safe, and these have been fiercely independent clients who’d reject explicit offers of help. We’re proud that our befriending service supports both clients and carers.
Volunteers Week takes place every year 1 – 7 June and it’s an opportunity to celebrate and say thankyou to volunteers across the UK. We have a fantastic team of volunteers doing everything from administration to helping with events, helping with our website and of course befriending. This post celebrates the work that our wonderful volunteers do – with words from them telling us why they love volunteering and the impact that their befriending has on their clients. Our volunteers visit clients in their own homes and Care Homes through the Care Home Connectors project. Now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, our volunteers are taking telephone befriending in their stride – continuing to make a massive difference for socially isolated older people in West Norfolk. Get in touch with us here if you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with us.
One of the nicest things about Befriending is to make the client laugh. My current client says she wishes I could stay forever.
Our befrienders make a massive difference to their client’s lives, wellbeing and happiness – plus volunteering is rewarding for them aswell!
My client’s face lit up with delight when I took him to the seaside. He hadn’t been for two years since his illness.
Our volunteers ease isolation not only by bringing the outside in but also by taking clients out when possible. With a good match and a trusting relationship with their volunteer, our clients enjoy trips to the seaside, cafes and garden centres – plus to our social events where clients get to meet other volunteers, staff and clients.
It took a little while for my client to remember how to crochet but we managed to do some.
Our volunteers often spend time with their clients encouraging their hobbies and interests. Whether that’s crochet, reading or gardening our volunteers help to brighten our clients lives long after their visit.
Our clients all have such wonderful stories to tell and for most of them they have no-one who has the time to listen – that’s where we come in. My clients have had such varied careers such as coal miner, milliner, member of concert party in the war, one who travelled all over the world while she worked with British Airways and another who worked with the Bank of Australia in Melbourne. I have learnt a lot from our talks and have enjoyed the visits as much as the client.
Our wonderful volunteers give an amazing 3036 hours a year to listen to our clients stories.
I think befriending says it all; we provide social contact for people who live alone, we provide a listening ear and our time. This is why I am proud to be a volunteer for West Norfolk Befriending.
It’s so lovely to hear that our volunteers are proud to be a West Norfolk Befriending volunteer! We are very proud of our volunteers and the brilliant work that they do.
West Norfolk Befriending is a small local charity who works with socially isolated older people in the West of Norfolk covering the Borough Council area from Hunstanton to King’s Lynn down to Downham Market and surrounding villages. We match trained volunteers with socially isolated older people with the aim of reducing isolation and improving their overall health.
‘We have been working since 2002 with a focus on increasing face to face contact to ease social isolation for older people in West Norfolk. With the Coronavirus outbreak we have had to rapidly change the way that we work. Our existing clients and volunteers have adapted to telephone befriending and this funding from the Norfolk Community Foundation allows us to expand our telephone befriending offer to clients that have already been referred to us and are on our waiting list.’
Norfolk Community Foundation has established the Covid-19 Community Response Fund to support local charities working hard on the ground to keep vulnerable people safe and well.
I’ve been a Befriender for six months now and the time has flown by. Visiting an isolated older person in their home is rewarding and positive. Here are five things I’ve learnt from the Befriending experience.
1. Volunteering helps volunteers, too!
It’s not just the people you’re supporting who benefit from you giving your free time. It’s hugely rewarding for you, too. Benefits include a sense of fulfilment, uplifted spirits and a way of meeting new people. It can really boost your confidence to know that you are helping someone and doing that little bit to improve their life. Every time I visit my client, I feel the positive impact of having brightened up someone else’s day. It’s been scientifically proven that doing good deeds can help with our mood, too. Not to mention getting to know other volunteers at our monthly meetings – they are a lovely bunch and have a wealth of experience to share.
2. New skills
I’ve attended several training sessions during my time here so far, on subjects as wide-ranging as confidentiality and fire safety. I have even honed my skills in website design, having rebuilt this very site on a voluntary basis. Volunteering for a small charity means there could be more opportunities to get involved and use or develop your skills. It’s always worth asking.
3. Greater awareness of the past
It’s the little things we take for granted, like being able to run the washing machine and looking everything up on the Internet, or buying off-the-rack clothes – the older generation can bring to life what it was like before all these conveniences! In our Sharing Stories project, we loved hearing about everyday life and learning about the fascinating lives our clients have led. We’ll be updating you on this wonderful project soon, so watch this space.
4. An insight into how other people think
Befriending often brings together two people who might never have met under normal circumstances. This makes it a lovely opportunity to get to know other views on life and understand other people better. Always a great asset in any social situation.
5. It’s the simple things that make a difference
Visiting someone once every fortnight might not seem like much – but that regular, reliable contact, that talk shared over a hot cup of tea, could make all the difference to them. According to the Health Foundation, “one in three older people in the UK live alone”. This is true for many of our clients. Sometimes they might not have seen anyone for several days, so being able to chat with you really can make their day.
These are some of my own experiences as a Befriender, but I’d love to hear yours – what’s your most memorable moment? What have you learnt?
Remember not to use any names to keep peoples’ identities private.
If you’re ready to apply for a Befriender role, click here.