How you can help Kettering's elderly by becoming a volunteer befriender

The scheme has been granted funding to expand into the town

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 7:00 am
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Since the Covid-19 pandemic started many elderly people in Northamptonshire have faced prolonged periods on their own, sometimes going weeks without seeing anyone.

One scheme which has been running for many years has been more important than ever - and it's expanding into Kettering.

Rushden-based charity Serve runs a befriending service in East Northants and Wellingborough with volunteers visiting - or calling in a lockdown - those who are isolated to check they are okay, provide companionship and make sure they don't fall through the gaps and suffer.

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The service, which was originally started under the name NCVA (a division of Serve), has been granted funding to expand into Kettering and is now on the lookout for volunteer befrienders who have a spare hour a week to help the elderly..

Olivia Clarke, Serve's befriender co-ordinator for Kettering, thanked everyone who has come forward to volunteer since the start of the pandemic.

She said: "It has made a huge difference and we were able to reach out to many more service users.

"Referrals continue to pour in as isolation continues to grow and we are in desperate need of more help.

"If you could spare an hour a week and would like to become involved in volunteering please get in contact.

"We would love to hear from you."

The service receives referrals from doctors, social prescribers, charities and councils for those who are isolated and unable to leave their home to access services in the community.

Volunteer befrienders go into a service user’s home once a week for a chat. They can do a puzzle or activity together and just spend time together so that the befriendee sees another person. Often service users won’t speak to anyone else all week so these visits are hugely important.

Befrienders and befriendees are matched on mutual interests as much as possible so that there is something to chat about and real friendships can begin to form.

With Covid-19 and its lockdowns home visits have been stopped with volunteers instead taking on telephone befriending. They have been calling befriendees once or twice a week instead to have a chat, catch up and check that everything is safe and well.

Serve has got PPE ready for their volunteers and will only be allowing them back out once it is safe to do so, and they can maintain social distance for both their and their befriendee’s safety.

A spokesman said: "Anyone could be a befriender as our service users are all different. Some prefer a good chat, others prefer to have someone who is good at listening and will want to hear all of their stories.

"We want people who are caring and empathetic and friendly. There is no personal care or cleaning involved at all, just friendship.

"We ask for an hour a week of your time to call or visit an isolated person. We will then work with you and your befriendee to find a time suitable for both of you for a telephone call or a visit. Some of our volunteers kindly take on more than one befriendee so if you enjoy befriending you can give as much time as you would like. We are grateful for any and all help."

Anyone who applies to become a volunteer befriender will be contacted by the charity so they can find out a bit more about them and their hobbies and interests. A DBS check will be completed by them, and renewed for as long as the volunteer helps out, with two character references required.

Once Serve has received a DBS certificate and both references they book volunteers into a half-day training session and then they can begin befriending.

When they have matched a befriender and befriendee a befriending co-ordinator will complete a home assessment and then introduce both parties in person and make sure both are happy and comfortable, continuing to provide support and regularly checking in throughout use of the service.

Anyone interested in joining as a volunteer should email [email protected] or call on 01933 313526.

- Serve is also looking for children to draw springtime pictures which they can send on to isolated people in the community to bring a smile to their face. If you want to draw a picture, send it to the following address by Friday, March 26:

Serve/NCVA Befriender Project, 8 West Street, Rushden, NN10 0RT