A recent news story touched a national nerve when Radio Solent invited a 94 year old man into the studio after he called them saying he was lonely because his wife had gone in to a care home. Clearly we as a nation are experiencing social isolation and loneliness, and are worried about it!

Befriending Week (1st-7th November) comes at an apt time, and we are proud to say at Volunteering Matters that befriending is an integral part of our work. We want everyone being connected to and supported by their community, whatever their circumstances and befriending schemes are one of the services we offer to help make that happen.

It’s not a one size fits all approach though – simply matching one person with another and asking them to be friends! Just a quick glance at some of our programmes that involve befriending demonstrates the range of impact behind that one little word ‘befriending’.

As part of our work in the City of London our volunteers share one or two hours per week with an elderly or vulnerable person living in London’s square mile, sometimes visiting them at home or going on outings or shopping trips together.

You don’t always need to do people’s shopping for them though. Our Citywise programme runs a  telephone befriending that  also enables people to receive contact from our volunteers on a regular basis – even if not in person.  Do have a read of Roberto’s case study (look right) for a picture of the benefits simple telephone befriending can bring – both to caller and recipient.

Around Derby we offer befriending services to children in care. We are funded by Derby City Children and Young People’s Department to manage the Children in Care Council which aims to improve the services received by children in care and care leavers.  As part of this, volunteers are matched with a child or young person to help them during difficult periods of their lives, or as they face new challenges

Similarly, our Grandmentor  scheme links older people with young people leaving foster care. The “Grandmentor” provides the young person with invaluable mentoring, guidance and a support system whilst they consider their future career or education path.

Finally, our befriending scheme in North Lanarkshire enables volunteers to act as positive role models, providing support to children and young people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives, taking them out on social and leisure activities and encouraging them to make positive changes in their lives.

So this Befriending Week reach out to someone who might need to see a friendly face – maybe through one of our programmes, or in other ways. With increasing numbers of us not knowing who are neighbours are, connecting people to create more supportive communities can only benefit us all in the long run.