We will create 5 befriending schemes in the Lewisham Borough area which will enable volunteers to visit isolated older people regularly. The schemes will be set up in partnership with local churches, who will work closely with other organisations in their community. The visits will be arranged on a weekly or fortnightly basis and will last for around 1 hour. Volunteers will spend quality time with their ‘Link Friend’ and will also be able to take their ‘Link Friend’ out where appropriate to garden centres, short walks or other activities of interest. Local schemes may also develop other activities according to demand such as singing groups, pub lunches, computer training or other social events. We will identify those who will benefit from visits through Community Connections, social workers, local charities and GP surgeries. All volunteers will be fully vetted, interviewed and trained so that they have the skills and information required to carry out their role effectively and safely.
What we'll deliver:
- Volunteers will regularly visit older people in need of social interaction
- Trips to local places places of interest will be arranged together
- 'Link Friends' will be signposted to other local agencies for any specialist advice or information
Why it's a great idea:
There are almost 10,000 people aged over 65 living alone in Lewisham Borough. Many of these people will be struggling with their sense of isolation and loneliness and their only contact with ‘the outside world’ may be a visit to the supermarket or occasional brief visits by carers. For around 27,000 of people in Lewisham Borough, television will be their main form of company. There is increased concern about the health and social impact of social isolation in this country as well as increasing evidence of the benefits of befriending projects to address this. The model of Link Visiting Scheme has been successfully tried and tested in Berskshire since 1998 and we are now using a community franchising approach to develop schemes in other areas of the country. We already have one scheme operating in the borough and wish to build on these networks to benefit older people further. The schemes will primarily benefit those aged 65 and over who are struggling with social isolation.
Steps to get it done:
- We will run taster events to explain the model and benefits of local schemes
- We will run training events for potential projects to outline key aspects of setting up and running a scheme
- Emerging schemes will explore local demand, network with other agencies & develop necessary administrative processes
- Volunteer Induction courses will be run for schemes about to lunch
- Each new scheme will launch and begin accepting referrals
Our primary aim with each befriending scheme will be to ensure that 'Link Friends' receive good quality time with their volunteer. This then leads to improved mental health and a reduction in feelings of loneliness or depression. As they engage with activities outside of their home, this will also lead to improved self-confidence and self-esteem. Volunteers also benefit from a sense of achievement in making a difference to their 'Link Friend's life and often learns more about life in other generations.