Derbyshire Times reporter speaks of the joys of being a telephone befriender

Being a telephone befriender is, quite simply, wonderful.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 7:00 am

The Derbyshire Times’ Buddy Up! campaign is encouraging more people to volunteer with telephone befriending services to help combat loneliness among older people in our communities – and I would urge you to get involved if you can.

Shortly after the pandemic was declared last year, I joined hundreds of other people in signing up to the Covid-19 Community Response Unit, which was set up by Derbyshire County Council.

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Derbyshire Times reporter Michael Broomhead says telephone befriending is very rewarding.

The unit brings together other Derbyshire councils and agencies, including the voluntary sector, to help support vulnerable residents throughout the crisis.

Volunteers with the Community Response Unit can help others in a number of ways – by shopping for food and delivering it, collecting and dropping off prescriptions, and telephoning people to help prevent loneliness.

For a number of months, I made regular phone calls to a gentleman who lived alone and was shielding himself.

We talked about all sorts of things for 30 minutes or so each time – from the weather, to his past, to how he was passing the time, to what he was cooking for dinner.

Our Buddy Up! campaign aims to help connect isolated older people with thoughtful individuals across the county.

I remember he once told me that the friendly chats ‘help to fill the silence’ and he was incredibly appreciative that someone was reaching out to make sure he wasn’t lonely.

It also gave me such a feel-good boost – I felt like I was helping to spread some light at what was a very dark time indeed.

If you’re thinking about becoming a telephone befriender, go for it – I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

It’s such a rewarding thing to do and you will be making a positive difference.

Loneliness is a growing problem in our society – but telephone befriending is such a simple and effective way of tackling the issue.

The county council provides around £129,000 a year to voluntary sector partners to provide befriending services across Derbyshire.

In the year prior to the pandemic, the county-wide service provided support to 1,034 individuals.

That number has increased significantly since the pandemic, with a further 573 requests made through the Community Response Unit - in addition to those who have contacted the authority’s partners directly.

A county council spokesperson said: “Some of the comments we’ve received from people who have received the service include them saying it prevents anxiety knowing someone is going to call them.

“They say they enjoy the conversation and it’s lovely to pass on memories, and it lessens the burden on a family member.

“Volunteers have told us how great they feel to make use of their time productively and proactively at a time that suits them.

“They love listening to people’s stories and they have the support of the local volunteer centre.”

For more information about the Community Response Unit and to find out how to volunteer with it, call 01629 535091 or visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/social-health/health-and-wellbeing/health-protection/disease-control/coronavirus/community-response-unit/if-you-want-to-volunteer/if-you-want-to-volunteer.aspx.

- If your Derbyshire charity or organisation offers befriending services and you would like to be featured as part of our Buddy Up! campaign, please email [email protected]

Editor’s message

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription at www.localsubsplus.co.uk or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.