Volunteers needed for befriending service…Can you help?

Age Concern Southend need befriending volunteers to combat a mounting waiting list and social isolation in our elderly.

Age Concern Southend are a small, independent charity based in Westcliff on Sea, Essex. We provide support, advice and services to older people in Southend and the surrounding communities.

Our befriending programme is just one of many services we run and has been in operation for over 10 years.

Both face-to-face and telephone befriending is available to anyone over 60 in Southend and the surrounding areas who may feel isolated or lonely or do not see anyone on a regular basis due to health or mobility issues. The service is completely free.

With face-to-face befriending, a volunteer risk assessor will first survey the conditions and safety of people’s homes before we can provide this service. We are also looking for more volunteers to help us do this.

We currently have a team of 110 befriending volunteers who are then matched with an older person in their area to call or visit once or twice a week, ideally. We provide 171 people with the befriending service. Of these people, 55 are currently receiving a visit each week; 133 are currently receiving a telephone call each week; and some people receive both.

This means that more than 6,000 telephone befriending calls are made each year, and over 2,500 visits are made each year to isolated people in our community.

The oldest person being befriended is 100 years old, and the average age is approximately 78. The longest running befriending case we are aware of had been ongoing since 2011 and ended recently when the client sadly passed away.

Julia Usher at Age Concern Southend said, “Levels of isolation vary from case to case.  Some of our clients are housebound and have no family or visitors, some are bedbound and only see carers, and most will have some contact with family, friends and/or carers but want to make more meaningful connections.”

“The programme is rewarding for both befriender and befriended. We are often told that our calls or visits give people something to look forward too, make them feel calmer, less anxious and supported. Our volunteers feel fulfilled, helpful and less lonely too – carving real friendships.”

“It really is a vital community service. Just last Christmas, one of our telephone befrienders made us aware of concerns for a member’s welfare, after he had sustained an injury and was unable to leave his home. He had run out of money, food and medication and had not wanted to ask anybody for help.  We were able to get some support for him and referred him to the Access Team for ongoing assistance.”

As you can imagine, the Pandemic has had a significant impact on social isolation in the elderly and in turn this service is in high demand. During the pandemic, we could only offer telephone befriending and unfortunately had to put our face-to-face befriending on hold. The waiting list was at 0 at the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020, but by December 2020 this had risen to 49 people waiting, it now stands at 77 for telephone befriending and 79 for face-to-face befriending, with an average waiting time of 6+ months (although we do prioritise those most in need). Unfortunately, our administrative demands have also grown, whilst volunteer support has reduced as people return to work post-lockdowns.

The charity is looking for more volunteers who can offer an hour or two a week to help Age Concern Southend reduce this waiting list. We anticipate that 60-80 volunteers are needed to tackle the growing waiting list and hope that local businesses may also like to support us, affording time to their employees to volunteer. Without volunteers this vital service would, quite simply, not be possible. If you would like to learn more about how you can help, please get in touch by contacting the team on 01702 345373 or emailing enquiry@acsos.co.uk. All volunteers are supported in their roles and DBS checks are carried out by the charity.

Example volunteer descriptions for befriending volunteers can be found on our VOLUNTEER PAGE.


*Statistics gathered and true of October 2022

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