Loneliness does not discriminate: new befriending service in Norfolk

18 June 2020

A new befriending offer has been launched during Loneliness Awareness Week to link people to services that can help combat isolation and loneliness in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council, in partnership with the voluntary sector, community groups and local councils in Norfolk, can now offer direct connections to existing befriending services and to the army of volunteers recruited during the pandemic.

People can ask for support with loneliness and isolation by contacting Norfolk County Council directly on: 0344 800 8020.

By centralising calls for the befriending service, the County Council’s customer service team can rapidly connect the customer to a volunteer co-ordinator, who will then match an appropriate befriender from the network of volunteers across the county. As well as befriending phone calls, the service hopes to provide socially distanced visits too.

So far, volunteers across the county have made regular calls to over 260 people.

Ninety-year-old Maurice Oliver has recently joined the befriending service and said: “I try to keep moving with housework and like to use brain-power making models, otherwise you lose it, but I do still feel lonely and depressed at times. I’ve come to rely on these calls. [My befriender’s] an angel and is genuinely interested in me, not just talking for the sake of it.”

Ceri Sumner, a spokesperson for the Norfolk Resilience Forum, said: “We already know the devastating effects that loneliness and social isolation can have on people’s mental and physical health, so we are urging people to reach out and not to feel stigmatised – essentially, it’s okay not to feel okay – we are here to help.

“We must remember that, for a number of vulnerable people in the county, they still need to take more precautionary measures. The befriending service should go some way to reaching those people who don’t have friends and family to make regular calls or visits. Please check on anyone who would benefit from befriending, and share the contact number: 0344 800 8020.”

Alan Hopley, Chief Executive of Voluntary Norfolk, said: “Based on the success of our volunteer recruitment over the last few months, we wanted to ensure that this incredible resource would remain sustainable and make a real difference to people’s lives. Going forward, the role of the volunteer is not only integral to the recovery of the current crisis but is also instrumental in providing early help and support for communities longer term.

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