MEMBERS OF a West Yorkshire church are taking tackling the blight of loneliness into their own hands by setting up a befriending scheme, the first of its kind in the region.
The Link Visiting Scheme in Wilsden near Bradford was set up by church pastor Derek Carver after being struck into action The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign. It has five trained volunteers and is looking to partner with other churches and groups to grow.
It was while delivering a meal to a man in his 80s who was “totally isolated” in his Bingley home that Mr Carver was first alerted to the impact of loneliness, which can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“He had a wonderful hobby, restoring old cars, but had no one to share it with. At that time we had no male volunteers who could devote time to him, but I was very moved by his experience,” Mr Carver said. “It was a couple of months later, when The Yorkshire Post launched its loneliness campaign that it struck me that we should do something about it.”
He went about researching ways his church, the Advance Church, at Wilsden Village Hall, could start befriending, and found The Link Visiting Scheme.
It was launched in Berkshire in 1998 and three years ago expanded nationally. Ran by churches and Christian agencies, it has developed resources that can be adapted to different community settings that need not be faith-based. The Wilsden scheme is the first in Yorkshire, and will be officially launched on Friday.
It is now looking for partner groups and volunteers, and is ready to take referrals and enquiries from people who may benefit from the service. Initially it is aimed at older people in the Bingley Rural wards, which includes North Bradford, Wilsden, Cullingworth, Bingley and Cottingley. Volunteers will be matched with people who have similar interests or hobbies.
“As we grow in numbers we hope to provide activities to bring people together, whether it be a group of men visiting a pub or taking people to a lunch club where they can make friends,” Mr Carver said.
“At this time of year, with the bad weather, people are more isolated than ever. There are lots of ‘invisible’ people these days - people no longer meet up at the Post Office and more and more social contacts people used to rely on are diminishing. People are disappearing into the woodwork and we want to play our part in stopping that.”
The Link Visiting Scheme national co-ordinator Jeremy Sharpe, said: “Isolation can affect people of all ages, but particularly older people. Our visits are about giving quality time to people who may not see anyone else from day to day. It has been really exciting to see it grow and reach people who need help the most.”
Anyone interested in the scheme, as a volunteer, partner, or to use the service, can attend to launch at Wilsden Village Hall from 10am to 11am this Friday, January 6. For more information call co-ordinator Barbara Thompson on 07815 708183.