Help need for befriending scheme which helps the lonely

VOLUNTEERS are needed from across South Yorkshire to help with a befriending scheme that helps people with long-term or mental health conditions avoid loneliness.

Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The British Red Cross Rotherham befriending project is part of the town’s social prescribing service, which sees GPs prescribe non-medical treatments such as tai chi, lunch clubs or a befriending.

It has been running since 2012 and earlier this year analysis from Sheffield Hallam University found it could save local NHS services over £1m over the next five years - and have a huge impact on those suffering from loneliness or social isolation.

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Unlike more traditional befriending service where participants are visited or receive phone calls from a volunteer, the British Red Cross scheme sees volunteers work with the person over ten visits to find new opportunities to build confidence and socialise.

That could include helping someone join a gardening club, a dance group or even go to the gym.

The service looks at each person’s individual needs so that the support can be tailored to age, interests and wishes – and more volunteers are needed from a wide range of backgrounds to help make this happen.

Margaret Hodgson, who has been volunteering for the befriending scheme since 2013, says the benefits of taking part go both ways.

She said: “For many of the people we help, their only visitor that day will be the Red Cross.

“The nice thing is that we as volunteers get to meet some wonderful, interesting people who often have so many of their own stories to tell and we get to meet so many new people along the way.”

Service co-ordinator, Janet Stocks said: “Ideally, we need a pool of 40 volunteers from Rotherham and surrounding areas who we can call upon to meet growing demand.

“We aim to respond to requests for support as quickly as possible and with more volunteers we can speed up the process and make sure support is in place for as many people as possible.”

To find out more, contact Janet Stocks on 0114 242 7376 or email [email protected]