Befriending Week takes place 1-7 November throughout the UK, raising awareness of befriending and the impact it has on individuals and communities in helping combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Tracy Rudling, CEO at Community360 said: “Here at Community360 we would like to start by thanking all of our wonderful befriending volunteers, for their dedication and adaptability during what has been an incredibly challenging year. It has been incredible to see how befriending at this time has become even more important to supporting our communities.”
She added: “Lockdown measures caused by Covid-19 has highlighted the detrimental effects of loneliness and health and wellbeing as well as the importance of connectivity, community spirit and kindness. We want to raise the importance of befriending this week and to share a few of our stories with you on our befriending services.”
Community360 leads on the Home from Hospital (HfH) Volunteer Befriending Service which is based out of Colchester General Hospital.
The service offers travel home for patients discharged from hospital Monday to Sunday until 7pm. Those patients who have a GP with a Colchester postcode are also offered a volunteer befriender to give them light touch support for up to 6 weeks post discharge, helping them to get back on their feet and reintegrated into their local communities. Even if patients feel they have enough support from family or friends they are always pleased to know there is support out there for them.
The Home from Hospital team received a referral from the Emergency Assessment Unit in July 2020. Mrs CK was 77 years of age and lived in Tendring, unfortunately her husband had passed away in March and the HfH team were asked to follow this lady up on discharge from EAU and to check in with her at home. Mrs CK had been seen by the crisis team on her previous visit to A&E and had been referred on to Health in Mind for emotional support. It was hoped the HfH team could signpost her to local services as well as befriend her.
Unfortunately, the ladies’ medical condition was impacting on her ability to manage her household tasks at times, which had caused her increased stress. With her recent bereavement and grief, she was understandably overwhelmed and looking for some help and support with practical tasks such as changing details on bank accounts, bills and pension.
“Due to the pandemic we were not able to physically send out our volunteer befrienders as usual, but one of our befrienders, Andrew, was contacted and brought up to speed with Mrs CK’s case, regarding her needs.” Said Hamish Macdiarmid, HfH Co-ordinator.
He added: “Andrew supported her and also identified that she was a candidate for community transport as she didn’t drive and was very much in need of getting out of the house, for some new activities and to meet new friends.”
She had been delighted with the amount of support she had received and said that:
“I don’t know where I would have been without all the support and help. It has made all the difference.”
The Home from Hospital team also received another referral in mid-July from the Discharge Coordinator on Langham Ward at Colchester General Hospital, They felt the patient would benefit from having a befriender to help with shopping and cleaning services when back home.
The HfH coordinator was able to visit this gentleman in hospital before he was discharged to assess his requirements and to consider which volunteer might be a good match from the pool of befrienders.
“One of our befrienders, Simon, was contacted and agreed to receive the referral to help Mr RS over the phone with his recovery over the following six-week period. Simon received details of what had already been discussed and offered to this patient.“ said Hamish.
He added: “Simon spoke with Mr RS on the day he arrived home for 20 minutes to assess how he was and to clarify any immediate needs. Shopping was organised and it was confirmed that he had all the medication he required. Simon spoke with him and kept him in good spirits during his isolation and reported back weekly to us.
He has received on-going support from our befriender with weekly chats, shopping, medication, fall prevention slippers and signposting to other services.”
Steve Wilkinson has been volunteering for the HfH project for nearly two years and has stepped up with the response to Covid-19 and the new telephone befriender service. He has supported more than five people over this period and has picked up some of the more complicated HfH cases of late. Hamish said: “Steve is a quiet gent he is very dedicated and thorough in his volunteer befriending. Unfortunately, he is leaving us as he is moving with his wife to Ireland. He will be sadly missed not only for his superb work but because he is a Colchester United fan as well! We wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his dedication and support.”
Steve Said: “I have really enjoyed being a befriender and I have been involved with many calls on behalf of Community360 as part of the Home from Hospital Service. I have also been calling people who were told to shield during the first wave of the pandemic. I only made a small intervention into their lives, but it was good to check up on these people, who could be quite vulnerable, and for them to know that someone was looking out for them. Some of them were on their own, so I think that helped them feel less lonely. It was also important that I could flag up if anyone appeared to be in trouble. I would definitely recommend becoming a befriender.”
When the pandemic hit, Community360 moved quickly to launch its Telephone Befriending Service to help some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Community360 is an accredited generic befriending service and offers support to all ages, not just the elderly.
One recipient of the service said: “The calls are so helpful. You do not feel quite so alone. As much as anything else it is the fact that someone is out there. There have been days I have felt quite alone and have not really wanted to ring up my daughters and stepdaughters. They work full time and the thought I would ring them up and tell them life’s awful, I just could not do. They would just fret, and I know they worry about me. It is so helpful to feel a little less isolated. If you are having a particularly bad day – particularly with lockdown, it can be a nightmare and you feel that there is nobody out there who knows. It’s a relief to talk to somebody, thank you.”
Another said: “The real value of this service is you feel heard. You feel listened to. Someone cares.”
Unfortunately, people may become socially isolated for a variety of reasons. It could be lack of family contact, loss of a loved one or through ill-health or disability but a volunteer befriender or driver can be a life-changer to many people. Providing friendship by calling for a chat breaks the monotony of another day spent alone at home.
There are also local groups that make up the Colchester Befrienders Network Group, of which Community360 is part of.
They can give someone a friendly phone call, invite you to one of their virtual coffee mornings or afternoon teas. They can also, where possible meet face to face!
They do this with the help of their wonderful volunteers and are always looking for more!
For more details on who we are, what we do and how to contact us please see below:
Photo shows: Steve Wilkinson, Home from Hospital Volunteer/Befriender