Befriending Plus

What was the issue you were addressing or working on?

Older people are increasingly experiencing social isolation. Statutory services are unable to provide the one-to-one social aspect that a volunteer can provide which is a proven intervention in improving people’s mental health and wellbeing, reducing social isolation and providing associated health benefits of people re-engaging with their community through support.

Contact with a volunteer on a regular basis provides the opportunity for observation of a befriendee’s wellbeing and allows interventions to be explored or offered before the situation deteriorates to crisis level.

We believe that Befriending Plus complements the changing emphasis of statutory service provision towards re-ablement and helps to reduce the high demand on health and social care services.

What you did?

The local volunteer befriending service established a small scale project to support older people at home. It is specifically targeted at clients who are over 65 who have been found to be losing independence due to ageing, a recent hospital stay, long term condition, falls or as having unmet need which has been identified as being crucial for increasing service users confidence and maintaining their independence.

Befriending Plus is managed by East Dunbartonshire Voluntary Action and runs alongside an established Befriending Service which recruits volunteers, delivers training, discusses referrals with referring agencies, families and service users, records case work, oversees matches, and supports staff and volunteers.

Befriending Plus:

  • Offers a package of support, provided by volunteers, to older people with low to medium levels of support needs
  • Expands the existing Befriending Service to offer low level support – such as shopping, transport, social contact, discreet monitoring (e.g. good day call) assistance with IT usage and sign posting to other services
  • Allows our formal Befriending Service to expand to offer a personalised “package of care”
  • Offers support to older people who don’t participate in Befriending to encourage the transition to volunteering themselves within the scheme.

14 older people are currently being supported by the project which has recently received additional Change Fund investment to increase its capacity.

What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?

Befriending Plus works well when the service user is at home on discharge from hospital and after clinical/medical discharge teams have completed their input.  The service has benefited service users identified by other professionals as not coping with practical things like shopping, getting to appointments, banking, reading mail etc.

Some users of the service also receive other services e.g.  mainstream befriending but have declined or deteriorated and require more than the social intervention provided by mainstream befriending and so are referred onto Befriending Plus for support with practical tasks.

Case Stories:

A service user was able to return home early from hospital (freeing up a bed) as support from Befriending Plus was continuing and in place when he returned home. The Befriender and Development Officer are maintaining contact with his family in England. There is now Social Work Home Care input. The service user feels able to go out with Befriending support.

A service user was accompanied to an appointment with the Oncologist and was delighted to have been given the all clear following a long period of treatment. The volunteer was there to support and to assist with calls to family about the good news.

A volunteer alerted the Development Officer that his befriendee had been “persuaded” (through cold-calling) to change utility supplier. Trading Standards and other services have been alerted and are assisting.

Contacts - to find out more

Elaine Smith,