A SCHEME aimed at eradicating loneliness, isolation and loss of confidence among older people caused by the pandemic has been given a £31,000 National Lottery funding boost.
The cash was awarded to Age UK Bromsgrove, Redditch and Wyre Forest to support its Befriending service.
The charity supports people aged 50 and over in North Worcestershire and will use the money to support members of the communities, helping them overcome some of the longer-term effects of Covid-19.
Befriending is one of the charity’s core charitable services, providing local people with friendship and support through regular calls or visits from a volunteer.
After the first lockdown announcement, the service quickly had to adapt to being a ‘telephone-only service’.
And, whilst the charity has seen a significant increase in the ‘demand’ for the service these last 14 months, it has also experienced a change in the ‘need’ and in the tone of the conversations.
Older people who previously expressed quite a positive ‘social outlook’ were expressing a ‘nervousness’ about being around others.
The National Lottery Community Fund award will help pay for the Befriending service’s operating costs and ensure the much-valued support can continue, whilst the charity recovers its financial position following the pandemic.
Research shows people across the West Midlands show almost half (46 per cent) feel reducing loneliness and isolation is important for their community’s wellbeing this year.
Whilst telephone support will continue to be an important part of the service, this funding will enable Age UK BRWF to develop a more flexible (and Covid-secure) approach to help members of the community to re-establish those all-important face-to-face social connections.
They include more doorstep, coffee and garden visits and accompanying people on visits to the shops.
The ‘buddying’ support will help them rebuild their confidence.
Age UK BRWF’s Acting CEO Amanda Allen said: “As a charity, we are acutely aware of the impacts that loneliness can have on an older person’s health and wellbeing.
“As lockdown restrictions are eased, there is the potential for a growing divide between those able to restart their social connections and those (such as those that have been shielding) who feel that they cannot.
“Thanks to the National Lottery players we can now not only maintain our current levels of support but can also develop the service to respond to the needs of our communities and reach those that need our help most.
“We have an absolutely amazing team of Befriending volunteers but to help us to grow the service, we also need more people to get involved.”
Nicola Thurbon, The National Lottery Community Fund’s senior head of regional funding for the Midlands, said: “We are pleased to be funding Age UK BRWF, whose staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly throughout an incredibly difficult year to offer support to people experiencing loneliness.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, who raise £30million each week for good causes across the UK, people will continue to benefit from telephone befriending – particularly those who have had to shield or isolate.”
The service also needs more people to get involved and the charity has urged anyone interesting in becoming a ‘Befriender’ to visit www.ageuk.org.uk/brwf/ or call 01527 570490.