How the Befriending Partnership are connecting people during lockdown and beyond

Lady talking on a mobile phone sitting at home.

The Befriending Partnership are helping to tackle isolation through a telephone service set up to support older people and vulnerable adults, as part of the community response during the coronavirus lockdown.

Volunteers who give their time to the Befriending Partnership are matched with citizens who are known to the organisations as needing contact, to make sure they are okay in their homes and to help reduce feelings of isolation.

The telephone befriending service is led by Community Connections at the Yorkshire Children’s Centre and Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees.

We spoke to Christine Rhodes, Service Manager for Community Connections, about how people have been making connections and helping each other during lockdown.

“In the last few weeks we have seen our volunteer numbers grow to 90, and we have made 56 matches to those who need befriending phone calls. Our volunteers spend between 2 to 4 hours a week on calls with vulnerable or isolated people. We try and match people with similar interests and in the same local areas, with the hope they will carry on befriending afterwards, hopefully face to face.

“Of the 90 volunteers we have at the moment, around 35 have been forwarded from Kirklees Council’s call for volunteers and from staff that have been furloughed from elsewhere. The other volunteers have come in from all areas and walks of life.

“Referrals for the service come in from the Covid-19 Community Response team, from the community anchor organisations network and also now from the mutual aid groups who are doing brilliant work all over Kirklees.”

The volunteers not only phone people to have a friendly chat, but also receive training from the Befriending Partnership to help identify if someone needs other kinds of support. You can read Mark’s story on the Volunteering Kirklees blog to find out more about the experience for volunteers.

Christine told us that, until recently, one person was getting their shopping delivered. The volunteer identified that this had stopped and was able to feedback this information via a new app the Befriending Service are using. This resulted in a referral being made, making sure that the person received the essential supplies they needed.

The service continues to grow and more people are being welcomed to volunteer. We know there are many compassionate people in Kirklees who are keen to offer friendly phone calls to others. We’ve asked the people who have volunteered to offer this kind of support via our Covid-19 Community Response whether we can share their details with the Befriending Partnership.

We’re delighted to say that this has already resulted in a surge of new volunteers. Training is provided for all volunteers and enhanced ID checks are carried out routinely to make sure we are keeping vulnerable people safe.

“The Befriending Service is very important and is still growing. We know this is true of other support services too. We’re very supportive of the Mutual Aid Group network and the amazing work they’re doing too. It’s all about making sure vulnerable people don’t fall through the gaps and we’re doing all we can.

“I hope the volunteers signed up to the Befriending Service now, will continue to volunteer when we come out of the other side. And I hope those volunteering elsewhere in their communities continue as well.”

If you are interested in being a Telephone Befriender with full training and support please email: befriendingpartnership@yccuk.org.uk or call the team on 07849 398710 for more information.

If you, or someone you know, would like telephone befriending support please let us know via our Covid-19 Community Response online form, or call our Freephone helpline: 0800 4561114.


Befriending Partnership members

Find out more about the Befriending Partnership

There are five organisations involved in the wider Befriending Partnership in Kirklees. During the Covid-19 Community Response, the specific telephone befriending service has been set up by the Yorkshire Children’s Centre and Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees. They are also working closely with the Royal Voluntary Service and some of the volunteers have been matched with people on their waiting lists too.

Yorkshire Children’s Centre

Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees

Royal Voluntary Service

Kirkwood Hospice

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