Befriending service set to double to tackle loneliness

Digital training for older people would tackle loneliness, according to think-tank Policy Exchange. Picture: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
Digital training for older people would tackle loneliness, according to think-tank Policy Exchange. Picture: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
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A befriending service set up tackle the “intense” loneliness suffered by more than 4,500 people in Rotherham will be expanded.

Age UK’s Two’s Company service, which provides one-to-one befriending support and companionship, has been given £60,000 from Westfield Health.

The scheme was set up in 2011 after a campaign found that more than 4,500 people in the borough suffered from “intense” loneliness.

More than 160 older people benefitted from the project, which also offers a telephone service for vulnerable people, in its first two years.

It currently has 44 volunteers, who are specially trained, and wants to double the number by end of next year in order to help more people.

Age UK chief executive Lesley Dabell said: “Our volunteers range from people in their 20s to a 92-year-old, and Two’s Company benefits them as well as the service users.

“A recent service user questionnaire found 100 per cent were satisfied with the help they receive, and more than half say Two’s Company has enabled them to get more involved in their communities.

“Meanwhile two thirds of our befriending volunteers say their work has improved their self-esteem and confidence. The benefits are clearly significant for all involved, not just on mental health but physical and general health, too.”

Mrs Dabell added: “Our focus is on doubling the number of volunteers to 100 by the end of next year so we can double the number of people we can help - and then growing even further. This donation from Westfield Health will help get us a lot closer to making that vision a reality.”

l The Yorkshire Post is urging all local authorities to write loneliness into their health and wellbeing strategies. Visit www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness.