Formby Befriending Scheme offers a free service matching trained volunteers with isolated and lonely residents in Formby, Hightown and Ince Blundell.
They currently have 37 friends who are contacted weekly on a one-to-one basis and another 22 people are on the waiting list. Many are living with dementia or other mental health issues which have been worsened by the pandemic.
During the last 18 months they have organised shopping trips and prescription collections and deliveries for an extra 25 people. They have also kept in touch with people through phone calls, zoom meetings and surprise gifts, to avoid them feeling isolated.
The organisation which has 43 volunteers, six Trustees and 3 part time staff, is now starting a ‘Recovering Well’ project to help people as lockdown and social distancing restrictions come to an end.
They have had many new referrals and also new volunteer applications which need processing, so they are hoping to expand what they currently offer. The funding from Community Link Foundation will help towards extending the services they offer to meet the current demand.
One to one befriending visits are recommencing and they are holding weekly coffee clubs. The club used to be fortnightly but there is an increased demand for it now after people have been isolated for so long. They also plan to hold more activity based groups to help those living with memory problems.
Mark Pickering, Trustee, said: “We want our 90 Friends to all benefit from a re-introduction to their own friends and social groups and recommence more normal social routines. Many have suffered terribly during the pandemic lockdowns, experiencing serious mental health issues. Additionally, those living with dementia have experienced additional confusion and isolation.
“The last 18 months have been truly miserable for many elderly, frail and isolated people, particularly those without close family nearby. There are additional indirect benefits for the families of our Friends, wherever they may live, knowing that their relatives are becoming more socially active and involved in their community.
“Different people will need different solutions – some are not yet ready to leave their homes and we will be sensitive to their wishes and their needs. Success will mean that we find the best solution for each individual over the next few months and do as much as we practicably can to facilitate this.”
Enda Rylands, chair of Community Link Foundation, said: “This is a very deserving project which we are delighted to support. The work they did in the community during the pandemic, and how they are continuing to meet the needs of people as restrictions ease, is really important. We look forward to seeing how the project progresses.”
For more information on the scheme, go to formbybefriendingscheme.org.uk.