Our Friend is Your Friend is a Big Lottery funded programme that provides regular face-to-face contact to those who have become, or are at risk of becoming socially isolated in Sandwell.
We support to elderly and vulnerable adults who have become isolated due to many different reasons including bereavement, ill health, poor mobility and or recent hospital discharge. We aim to play a strong preventative role in helping those at risk to, create new or sustain existing social links, access local services and facilities, meet like-minded people through clubs and groups and meet people with similar needs to provide reciprocated support.
We recruit, police check and train volunteers who then visit socially isolated clients in their own homes or accompany them to attend appointments, get out and about or participate in social and leisure activities. Volunteers are generally asked to commit to giving 1 -2 hours per week. Times and days are agreed between the volunteer and the service user. We have a large range of service users that have various hobbies and interests and this is taken into account when matching them up with a befriending volunteer.
Service users are referred to us from a number of sources including agencies, self and family referral. Once the referral is received a member of staff will go out and meet the service user and their carer if applicable. A baseline assessment is completed to identify the service users requirements, personal circumstances, interests and preferences for a befriender. This information is then used to identify potential befriending matches.
Once they have been matched, the general pattern is that the befriender will meet with the user once a week. Some users choose to establish routines which may include outings to venues such as community centres or to visit other friends or attend a physical activity at a local sports centre. The personal relationship formed with the volunteer is important to the user, as is the opportunity for social activities and new experiences.
The volunteers and service users are supported and have weekly contact from staff at the Our Friend is Your Friend offices. All communication is logged enabling us to capture the success stories and monitor the progress of both service user and volunteer. These calls also enable us to identify any potential decline in the relationship or in the service users health.