The Friendship Network provides befriending for older people through visits and telephone calls; it also has a small IT support and training scheme which gives older people one-to-one tuition in their own homes to improve their IT skills and maximise their use of the computer and the internet. The service is managed by a part-time coordinator and provided by volunteers.
It is located in the Manor Gardens Centre, a health and social care centre founded in 1913.
Isolation and loneliness is endemic amongst older people and contributes to mental and physical morbidity. It also reduces access to information and so deprives older people of a whole range of services and benefits that could improve their lives.
Our services can make a real and substantial difference to older people's emotional and physical well-being.
Our objectives are to provide:
Group outings and activities to increase social contact, offering variety, stimulation and the opportunity to make friends
Information to members in order to increase choice and improve access to benefits and services
Supported referral and advocacy to ensure that older people can access all the benefits and services they need
One-to-one training in basic IT skills
Befrienders contact isolated and vulnerable people each week in order to chat, make sure they are as well as possible, and if necessary, refer them to other organisations that can provide benefits or services. Many also take an older person out to a local café or park by wheelchair or car.This makes a huge difference to people who otherwise may not see anyone socially for months at a time and who cannot go out independently because of mobility difficulties or sometimes a s a result of mental health issues.
Our volunteers become trusted friends and are in a good position to identify problems or worries the older person has; as an organisation we can then make sure that these issues are appropriately responded to whether through information, support with form filling, referral or advocacy.
We also have a small home-based computer support project; volunteers with IT skills visit older people to help get them started using a computer, solve problems as they arise and give some basic training. This enables people to contact friends and family by email and skype, reducing their sense of isolation, to use the internet to research hobbies and to do shopping, often saving money, increasing independence and supporting their mental well-being.
We organise outings and group activities throughout the year with support from local companies and funders; in the last year this has included visits to museums and art galleries, a boat trip and lunches in restaurants.