Council staff to help ensure no lonely day in Norfolk by becoming Age UK Norfolk befrienders

13 September 2017

Lonely people across Norfolk are set to benefit from a befriending scheme that will link vulnerable older people with volunteers from Norfolk County Council.

Up to 20 staff at the council are to be allowed to volunteer half an hour a week to participate in Age UK Norfolk’s telephone befriending service during their work time.

The new scheme will support the In Good Company campaign which is working to combat loneliness in Norfolk.

Alison Thomas, Deputy Leader of Norfolk County Council said: “Allowing our staff to become befrienders to lonely people during their working time signals our complete determination to help tackle the problem of loneliness in our county. We hope more organisations in Norfolk will give the same opportunities to their staff and sign up to similar schemes."

Eamon McGrath, Community Development Manager at Age UK Norfolk added: “We are delighted that staff at Norfolk County Council have the opportunity to volunteer to make calls as part of our Telephone Befriending service. We know how much the calls are appreciated by the people that receive them and how much enjoyment the volunteers have in making calls. Our service calls around 200 people each week and the extra volunteers will enable us to support even more people, which is terrific. We look forward to meeting the new volunteers and working with them.”

Catherine Underwood, Norfolk County Council’s Director for Health and Integration announced the new scheme at Age UK Norfolk’s AGM (Tuesday 12 September), saying: “We know loneliness can cause poor health and even lead to premature death. It can make people vulnerable to scams and fraud and increase their reliance on public services. But we also know that alleviating loneliness can help people lead independent, happier and healthier lives, for longer. 

“Supporting the In Good Company campaign is part of our strategy to promote independence. One of the campaign’s aims  is to encourage more people to do something, however small, to help stop loneliness in their local communities – from checking on their neighbours to volunteering with the hundreds of organisations that are running services and activities to help stop people feeling lonely in their local area. Our new staff scheme is just one way the county council is doing its bit to help ensure that no one spends a lonely day in Norfolk if they don’t want to.”

How the Norfolk County Council/Age UK Norfolk telephone befriending scheme will work

The scheme will involve allowing up to 30 minutes per week paid time for Norfolk County Council staff to help support Age UK Norfolk’s telephone befriending service. The scheme will include two hours for attending a preliminary informal interview and training with Age UK Norfolk 

The allowed time is for staff to make a telephone call to an older person matched to each other through Age UK. This will take place at the volunteers’ normal place of work and during working hours.

Staff wishing to take part can only do so if they have the approval of their manager, subject to the demands of their service.

The scheme will initially be for 20 members of staff with the plan to add more in the future depending on interest and organisational capacity.

Once accepted as a volunteer by Age UK staff attend an induction that gives further information on policies, safeguarding, guidelines for the calls.

Staff will be expected to provide a brief monthly log of the calls, time taken etc.

For political comment

Cllr Cliff Jordan, Leader of the Conservative Group and Leader of the Council, on 01362 820422 or Cllr Alison Thomas, Deputy Leader of the Council on 07920 286603
Cllr Steve Morphew, Leader of the Labour Group, on 07889 430673
Cllr Dan Roper, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, on 07920 441 970

Cllr Bill Borrett (Conservative) Chairman of the Adult Social Care Committee, on 01362 860200 or Cllr Shelagh Gurney (Conservative), Vice Chair of the Adult Social Care Committee on 01603 403122
Cllr Mike Sands (Labour), on 07557 634894
Cllr Brian Watkins (Liberal Democrat) on 01603 259306

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