What was the issue you were addressing or working on?
To tackle social isolation of older people and to provide information and support
What you did?
The befriending project has developed and grown since the initial project was set up in 2004, when volunteers were matched and visited older people on a 1:1 basis. Soon there was a waiting list for this service, and a telephone befriending service developed from this waiting list, with some of the older people referred to the service, providing the telephone befriending ‘Chataway’ service. Parties and events organised by Voluntary Action East Renfrewshire provided the ongoing catalyst for new ideas and the Computer Tree, a self regulating network of service users and volunteers who keep in touch and exchange information by e-mail developed as a next stage from the befriending and Chataway projects. The latest development is a newsletter which is produced by volunteers who collate and produce a publication that contains users’ personal stories, information about the project and its activities as well as local and national helplines.
What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?
As well as meeting the initial need of tackling social isolation, these projects have encouraged older people act as volunteers in the telephone befriending service and to learn about and access e-mail communications. The projects demonstrate an asset based approach to the care of older people and build on the capacity of the local community to support older people. This type of organic development takes time, and needs to be led by someone who has a vision for building community capacity as well as good volunteer management skills.
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