Volunteer schemes cry out for support

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FOR more than 40 years, Ilkley and District Good Neighbours have been providing support and care to vulnerable, elderly and isolated people.

But it is totally reliant on the kindness of volunteers, and requires people to help with two of its schemes, one that reaches out to the most lonely in the district, and another which helps those who cannot make it to the supermarket get their shopping.

Karen Jones, 51, a volunteer for the Ilkley and District Good Neighbour Shop Assist scheme helps Shelia White, 88, shop at Tesco in Ilkley.

Karen Jones, 51, a volunteer for the Ilkley and District Good Neighbour Shop Assist scheme helps Shelia White, 88, shop at Tesco in Ilkley.

The Yorkshire Post is encouraging its readers to volunteer for support services as part of its award-winning Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign.

The Ilkley group’s chairman, Judy Hutton, said volunteers were “invaluable”. Its own befriending scheme sees volunteers visit clients in their homes once a week, and occasionally taking them out for a cup of tea or a drive.

“For some people who are living on their own, perhaps feeling lonely or isolated, the very fact that someone a bit younger than them, a fresh face, is coming into their lived once a week can mean the world to them,” Mrs Hutton said.

“It enhances their well-being to know that someone cares. Families have become more and more fragmented, and for the children of these older people, it’s very nice to know that somebody is seeing their mum or dad on a regular basis if they live too far away to do so themselves.”

Good Neighbours began in the 1970s with a simple aim to help older people in the area. The basic ethos has continued, with the group reaching out to the elderly and isolated in Ilkley, Addingham and Burley in Wharfedale.

It is ran by ten trustees, supported by around 60 volunteers. As well as the two main volunteer-led schemes, it also holds one-off events, and recently held a party for 100 ninety-year-olds. At Christmas, it also provides hampers for the elderly and isolated.

The group’s ShopAssist scheme is also providing vital support in the community. It began in 2009 and currently helps around 15 people who could not otherwise travel to the supermarket to get their shopping.

Mrs Hutton said: “When we started a pilot, we found that people needed help in a number of ways. They might be partially sighted and not able to shop on their own, or walk with a stick and need help carrying their shopping.”

Volunteers for ShopAssist must have their own transport and, like with the befriending scheme, agree to a criminal records check.

“What we’re looking for is a kind disposition, somebody who is patient and willing to give up a couple of hours a week,” said Mrs Hutton.

It is often men in older age who require more support from volunteers, new figures published by the Campaign to End Loneliness suggest. It reports that more than 1.2 million men over 50 are suffering from isolation and almost a quarter (23 per cent) have contact with their children less than once a month, compared to 15 per cent of older women.

Laura Ferguson, director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, says: “It’s worrying that men have less contact with their children as they get older, making them more isolated than women. This report indicates men tend to be more dependent on their wives for social contact, making older men particularly vulnerable to experiencing isolation after the loss of a partner.”

To volunteer for the Befriending or ShopAssist schemes, contact Ilkley and District Good Neighbours on 01943 603348 or email info@goodneighbours.ilkley.org