Age UK Norfolk delivers a range of services across the county which includes advice and information, advocacy, home help and respite care. One of the primary services they offer is a free telephone befriending service that operates countywide and acts as a lifeline to many older people over 60+ who would otherwise feel lonely and isolated.

The service is delivered by volunteers who make calls from their own homes with an aim to cultivate a happy informal atmosphere, build strong bond with services users and provides companionship. For many this service represents their only and a link to the outside world and their only conversation from week to week. Once in touch with Age UK Norfolk, users are often connected to other support and services, including benefits and health advice as well as local social clubs.

The charity has recently been awarded by the Covid-19 Community Response and Resilience grants to continue delivering their telephone befriending service but also to continue their existing bereavement service including specialist support.

Norfolk has a larger than average population of older people and 53,000 of the 216,300 older people age 65 and over within the area live alone so it is vital that services, like befriending services, are available to help with social isolation.

Over the past year Age UK Norfolk has made a total 3,344 hours of befriending calls were made to lonely and isolated people – that is 244 befriending calls to older people a week. During the Covid-19 pandemic there was an increase in demand for Age UK Norfolk with the issue of loneliness being ever present during April 2020.

One individual received telephone befriending support and was also helped by Age UK Norfolk’s Information and Advice team during the pandemic. V first came to use Age UK Norfolk’s Telephone Befriending Service after her husband had passed away and his death triggered memories of times gone by. V really need to speak to someone about this and during the Covid-19 lockdown she could not go out to the shops to get essential supplies as walking was very painful due to an ulcer in the heel.

V was in tears on the phone to her telephone befriending volunteer and she contacted the Age UK Befriending team and was given the Advice Help line number. By the end of that following week V had been given medication and received a list of local care support within her area. V chose the nearest care available to her and as a result now has weekly cleaning, bed changing and others tasks when needed.

V is full of praise for the speed in which everyone from Age UK Norfolk responded and also recieve a follow up call for any other further help required. V’s Befriending Volunteer says “V feels so much better now. Her words were ‘You’ve been my lifeline’ and has asked me to pass on her grateful thanks to the Age UK Norfolk Information and Advice team.”

Overall the charity were able to offer a fast response and help those who needed support quickly during the pandemic.