Linking Lives UK
provide training, advice and documentation so that churches can build a network of volunteers to form meaningful relationships with people experiencing loneliness in their own communities. The volunteers visit people’s homes (usually older people) on a weekly or fortnightly basis, chat, laugh and build genuine friendships.
The Benefact Trust grant was intended to fund new projects in two of the most disadvantaged areas of England, providing active support for churches to develop relationships with the most isolated and vulnerable.
However, lockdown hit shortly after the grant was awarded and the charity has had to quickly respond to changing needs.
“Linking Lives UK has helped churches to provide a vital service, which will give many vulnerable people the reassurance that they aren’t alone at this challenging time and there is always a friendly voice at the end of the phone if they need it.” -Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust
With over 32 projects up and running across the UK, lockdown has greatly impacted those people relying on regular visits, so Linking Lives set up a phone befriending service, Two’s Company, meaning vulnerable people wouldn’t feel abandoned at this difficult time.
The new project was trialled in April across four areas of the UK - Bristol, Aberdeen, North Wales and Southampton - all of which were really successful! The service launched nationwide a couple of weeks later and now there are 18 telephone befriending projects; a number which continues to increase.
Two’s Company follows the same idea as the home visiting model, whereby the volunteers have a general chat on the phone and provide an outlet for people who don’t have anyone else to talk to, but they are also on hand for support, offering advice on how to access food and medication if need be.
“Many of our group members have been feeling anxious and depressed since lockdown, so we started running a regular online meetup. We also all met for a socially distanced ice cream in the park. All the people who attended have been really pleased with these activities and have said what a huge difference it has made to them at a time when they feel more isolated, scared and alone than ever.”– Linking Lives, Liverpool
There has been a significant uptake of new volunteers coming forward and Linking Lives UK has formed partnerships with community groups and COVID action groups to further the impact of this fantastic project.
As well as growing the new telephone befriending service, online activities and socially distanced visits have had a really positive impact on people who would have otherwise struggled in lockdown.
The charity envisages an increase in all of their existing projects, both in numbers and complexity as needs emerging as a result of COVID-19 become clearer.
Linking Lives UK will be on the frontline responding to a rise in isolation and loneliness. Additionally, as a Christian organisation, they will be in a key place to respond to questions of spirituality and grief.
Looking to the future, the charity wants to explore intergenerational ‘pen pal’ projects, which will benefit people post COVID. They have trialled this in a Norfolk care home, with young people sharing their experiences of lockdown with older people, this was a really valuable way for all ages to understand the impact of the pandemic on others – the charity would like to build on this work over the coming months and beyond.
They will continue to run their telephone befriending and online services, which have really opened their eyes to the benefits of going digital and how it can keep people connected.
Photo by: www.kerto.studio