“I am very pleased when it is 10.30 am on Saturdays. Linda arrives with a big smile- her visit brings an end to my sadness!”

Befriending Networks, the umbrella organisation for befriending in the UK, invites befriending services  to participate in Befriending Week in the run up to our annual conference on November 9th.

The conference, being held in Edinburgh,  is on the subject of ‘Loneliness’ , with speakers including Professor Mima Cattan from the University of Northumbria, and Tracey Robbins from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  We hope that day to examine the concept of loneliness, get a picture of the role played by befriending services in combating it, and explore how services might measure their impact.

The aim of Befriending Week is to promote the activity of befriending, raise awareness of its role in tackling loneliness and celebrate the achievements of volunteer befrienders.

“I feel that I’m no longer alone”

Befriending Networks’ membership of 250 services represents over 6000 befriending relationships, where volunteer befrienders are recruited, trained, matched and supported in partnership with people who are vulnerable due to ageing, disability or long term health condition, cultural factors, mental health issues and so on. Befriending projects frequently match volunteers with people who have no other social contact. For many, their befriender is the only person they ever see who is not paid to see them, as their opportunities for community participation are so limited.  We believe that befriending, far from being a’ fluffy add-on’, represents a key strand in a range of vital support services for people  marginalised by such issues as old age, disability, or longstanding health condition. It can prevent unnecessary GP referrals, hospitalisation or calls to out of hours social work services.  Anecdotal reports and evaluation results from hundreds of befriending services over the last ten years or so indicate that befriending has a vital role to play in alleviating loneliness and social isolation.

“I can do this, I can live. That is how I feel now.”

Befriending Week provides a particular opportunity for co ordinators to recognise the achievements of their volunteers, to celebrate the work they have done, to promote their project in their local area, to highlight the need for additional befrienders, or to raise awareness in their communities of the issue of loneliness and social isolation.

“I enjoy the companionship and the blether. I look forward to every visit.” 

We have asked churches and faith groups across the country to draw attention to the issue of loneliness in their services during the week .

We have also asked our member befriending services to contribute to our special website www.befriendingweek.org.uk , and to let us know about their planned Befriending Week activities across the country, which range from a pamper day for volunteers to a laughter workshop. Some of our members have organised their own publicity: Radio Orkney is featuring a befriending related slot every day, thanks to colleagues at Voluntary Action Orkney.

“Darrell is a real godsend. He has become a very good, caring friend. He has been a real lifeline.”

Projects across the country have been submitting photographs, quotes, stories, poems and images to add to a celebratory yet heart warming display of the impact of befriending, which will be exhibited at the conference and then elsewhere.

“She reminds me of who I really am.”

“The whole experience of being befriended has helped me to come to terms with the loss of my partner.”

We believe it is time in this first ever Befriending Week for befriending services to make themselves heard and promote  the part they play in the Campaign to End Loneliness. To join the Campaign, sign up here http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/support-us/