A befriender is a specific volunteer role that helps people feel less isolated or lonely. Devastatingly, an estimated 1.4 million people in the UK are chronically lonely. Therefore, connecting with someone who can offer companionship and an ear of support during challenging times is a welcome relief.
A befriending service will attempt to match people with volunteers with the same interests, so they can mutually enjoy the conversation and share their passions.
A befriender can talk over the phone or visit the person’s home if they prefer face-to-face conversations. With supervision from the befriending charity, volunteers may also take their person on an excursion to a local cafe, museum, doctor’s office or theatre.
Who Benefits From Befriending Services?
Anyone who is feeling lonely or isolated can benefit from a befriending service. Typically older adults require befriending services the most as they are less able to leave the house due to their age and health. However, people with depression, disabilities or other health conditions may also benefit from talking to a befriender.
Typically people seek support from a befriending service when they live on their own or have no family. However, people may still need these services even if they have family nearby or live with a spouse as they may wish to seek connection with new people outside their immediate circle. This is also important, so it gives family members peace of mind if they work long hours or travel and, therefore, can’t visit their loved ones as much as they would like.
Do Befrienders Have To Train?
To become a befriender, a volunteer doesn’t need any formal qualifications. However, they will undergo in-house training to give them the tools to deal with complex situations and learn how to best support people. As they will work with vulnerable adults, they will also be DBS-checked and regulated by the board.
Where to Find Befriending Services
If you are looking to become a befriender or hoping that you can organise support for your loved one, any of these services may help you. You may need to select criteria so they can match you with a suitable volunteer, including times for visits/calls, gender preferences, or skills or interests in common.
● Age UK
● CareDogs (animal befriending services)
● Alzheimer’s Society (for people with dementia)
Unfortunately, arranging a befriending service can take up to 3 months. Therefore, we recommend using other support services in the meantime.
For example, you could suggest your loved one join a group activity class in a subject they enjoy. You can use Google or MeetUp app to find local events they may enjoy. You could also buy your loved one a piece of photo jewellery with a photo of the two of you inside or a handwriting necklace with some words of encouragement for when they are feeling lonely, and you are unable to be there for them.