Successful first year for befriending project
Published by Kelly Elliott for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities
Volunteers and staff from the Silver Talk befriending project celebrate it’s first anniversary with a coffee morning at Derwentside Homes’ head office near Stanley, County Durham.
A volunteer-led telephone befriending scheme which supports elderly and isolated people in County Durham is celebrating a successful first year.
The Silver Talk project provides regular telephone calls to people who may otherwise have little contact with the outside world.
Set up a year ago the project marked its first anniversary with a coffee morning for volunteers, giving them a chance to take a well earned break and share their experiences.
Among them was June Tailford, of Stanley, who decided to become a volunteer after retiring last December.
The 64-year-old said: “I’d always wanted to do some volunteer work and having retired recently I had the time on my hands so when I heard about the project I was really keen to be involved.
“I talk to six different people and have found that over the weeks I’ve built up a really strong bond with them, finding out a little bit more about them each week.
“Most of the people I talk to are housebound and get quite lonely so having a regular phone call makes a big difference to them.
“I’ve found it really interesting too and have learnt all sorts about the history of the local area just through my conversations.”
Fellow volunteer Helen Holmes, 65, said: “I volunteer with a few other organisations which is really useful because if I can see someone might be struggling with something I can refer them to other services which I think might be of help.
“We see ourselves as the friend at the end of the phone and I really enjoy my weekly calls, I’ve even persuaded some of my friends to become volunteers too.”
Silver Talk was set up by local housing association Derwentside Homes with support from partners Durham County Council, Durham City Homes, Durham Council for Voluntary Service, the Mid Durham Area Action Partnership and NHS County Durham and Darlington and with funding from The Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund.
Project Manager John Atkinson said: “This is a fantastic project to work with. The volunteers are amazing and they make a real difference to lives of the older people they chat to every week. The initial research data was quite scary – there were so many older people who were clearly struggling, but I know we are making a big difference to those people’s lives now.”
Jean Steel of Durham City Homes said: “I was really pleased I was able to get Silver Talk to run from our offices in Meadowfield. We have lots of older people living in Durham City Homes that want to get involved. I know Silver Talk really brightens up the lives of the people they chat to – and the volunteers love it too!”
Since launching last year Silver Talk has worked with more than 124 older people. Following the success of its office in Stanley it set up a second base in Durham, with volunteers making their calls from both offices throughout the week. It currently has more than 34 volunteers, all of who undergo a four-week training course before starting work.
A team from the School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria University has been working with the Silver Talk team to evaluate the project’s impact on older people in terms of their wellbeing and social isolation. The project will also be evaluated from the point of view of the volunteers to assess their self-esteem and knowledge as well as the service providers in terms of their attitudes to partnerships.
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