Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA) launched its befriending service at the start of the pandemic to support older people in the Borough of Newham - one of the country’s boroughs worst affected by Coronavirus - who were feeling lonely and isolated. Since then,more than 21 volunteers have provided over 317 hours of phone-based befriending for almost 80 older people.
Benefact Trust Hope Beyond funding will ensure that BDCA can continue to run its befriending services until the end of 2021, so it can provide friendship and support through this most challenging time.
Befriending is part of a wider programme of services the charity offers to bring ‘years to life and life to years’ for older people in Newham. These include personal advocacy on a wide range of issues from housing to debt management; weekly social activities such as bingo and lunches; and sports and fitness activities from circuit training to Tai Chi. Since March 2020, BDCA has continue to run its activities online for older people, where possible.
Dave Mann, Chairman of Bonny Downs Community Association, said: “Many older people in our community are disadvantaged through poverty, disability, illiteracy or struggling with bereavement or poor health. In too many cases, the pandemic has increased their isolation as they have no family nearby or can't meet with their usual social groups because of restrictions.
“Our online activities and phone befriending service have been a lifeline for many older people, providing comfort, friendship and encouragement at a challenging time. We’re delighted that Benefact Trust has recognised the loneliness many older people continue to face in Newham and we are extremely thankful for their continued partnership and funding of our befriending work.”
Clem Richards, Elders Advocacy and Befriending Project Co-Ordinator at Bonny Downs Community Association, said: “We know from our conversations with older people in Newham what a difference this simple but effective befriending service can make. Our team and volunteers are thrilled that we have secured the funding to continue as the pandemic unfolds.”
Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “We’re proud to support BDCA with a Hope Beyond grant so it can continue to help vulnerable older people through its Befriending Project and online activities. Isolation and loneliness in older people is a very real issue, exacerbated by the pandemic, so the project is providing a vital service to ensure that older people feel valued, supported and listened to, as well as knowing they always have a friend at the end of the phone.”