Tell us about the befriending scheme? What is it?
Mossley Hill Linking Lives is a project for helping lonely and isolated older people in our area. Volunteers sign up and people are referred to us. They are both interviewed and we will try to match them, for interests, personality etc. The volunteer commits to visit once a week for about 45 minutes to an hour and we hope that friendships develop so both sides benefit.
Why is the scheme so important?
There is a massive amount of loneliness in older people in the UK, families live far away and couples are separated by bereavement. For example, 500,000 people in Britain spend Christmas entirely alone and 370,00 of over 75s spend 'zero' hours with another person on a typical day. Loneliness has huge detrimental effects on physical health as well as mental health.
How did you come up with the idea?
My daughter was visiting a gentleman through the Age UK scheme when she lived in Chester and she then wrote a piece about loneliness for a magazine. I couldn't believe the extent of isolation that people live with and the numbers involved. There are very few of this type of scheme in Liverpool. My nursing background has been in neonatal nursing, so totally the opposite end of the spectrum but I just couldn't get this out of my mind and eventually decided I needed to try to do something about it.
How did you make it happen?
I spoke with Alan Kennedy our Rector and David Bishop at our church to ask if we could set this up through Mossley Hill Church and they have been very supportive throughout. Charlie Jones, who is our safeguarding lead was also really helpful. I then did a presentation in church to call for volunteers. I had training at Linking Lives UK which we are now registered with, they are a national organisation supporting schemes such as ours and that has been an enormous help. We have been granted a start-up grant from the Church Urban Fund via Together Liverpool and we are currently awaiting a decision on further funding from the deanery.
What's happened so far?
We have 11 volunteers trained and DBS checked and a further three people interested. We are advertising for a coordinator
to take the next step which is seeking referrals and interviewing for the 'matching' process.
What's going to happen next?
Once we've appointed our coordinator, their first important task will be getting to know the volunteers, then contacting local social services, GP surgeries etc to seek referrals. He/she will visit all referred people to explain the service fully and make sure their next of kin know all about it too. Once volunteers and clients are matched, the coordinator will make sure over time that both parties are enjoying their visits as well as keeping records of visits on a database for safeguarding.
We also hope that the project will develop, from visits to group social events, Christmas get-togethers, outings and maybe events with speakers and volunteers. Ideas so far are: helping people with technology, avoiding financial scams, cooking for health on a budget etc. It would be great if some of our clients would like to speak at social events too, maybe they have had a really interesting job or hobby that they would like to chat about.
What would be your vision for the scheme?
Once we are up and running properly, we will hopefully roll this out to our sister churches All Hallows' and St Barnabas, and after that eventually across the diocese. We would love to see many, many older people living much happier lives.