Phone Friends offers a lifeline in Clydesdale

A scheme tackling loneliness among older people is being expanded to reach more people in Lanarkshire.

Volunteer Jo Dallas is one of many Phone Friends working across the country.

Food Train has now opened its Phone Friends service to the general public after work to support its members during the pandemic highlighted strong demand for it.

The service connects an older person with a volunteer who regularly phones them for a chat – giving them someone with whom they can share how they are feeling and enjoy some banter too.

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It helps break down geographic barriers to friendship and is open to everyone aged 65, even in Clydesdale where the charity does not have a physical branch but is looking to broaden its reach.

Morna O’May, who is overseeing Food Train’s Phone Friends service, said: “Covid has had a huge impact on older people who have had to shield and isolate.

"Because of the length of time this is going on for, they are losing confidence in being able to get back out and about again in public.

“It is creating a situation where people who had a connection to their community are losing that and those who were already isolated are feeling it even more keenly.

“The Phone Friends service is an ideal way to make connections again from the safe environment of your own home.”

Food Train first opened its Phone Friends to members after volunteers made check-in calls to older people during lockdown to ensure people were well and had all they needed – at a time when many of its members were unable to enjoy days out organised by the charity.

That service to members across the country has seen volunteers make 1550 calls, chatting to older people for 28,000 minutes.

The response has been so positive that the service, which costs £5 per month to join, is now being made available to non-members too. Phone calls can be weekly, fortnightly or less often.

Morna added: “Phone Friends allows a friendship to develop without having to involve any travelling or visiting which suits many older people and volunteers.

“We have volunteers vetted, trained and ready to be matched. Because it is a phone service, geography doesn’t matter.”

For more information, call 0800 048 9945 or email [email protected]