Charities collaborate to combat loneliness in the community

At the annual conference for their 200 volunteers, the Armed Forces charity The Officers’ Association (OA) announced its collaboration with The Silver Line and Age UK to pilot their “friends” service beginning on 1 May.

The volunteers, called Honorary Representatives (Hon Reps) visit former Officers of the three Armed Forces if they have a financial need or for advice. The Hon Reps inform the charity’s Benevolence Department about the requirement and recommend how the needs may be met best. Traditionally, this has been financial assistance through grants for such goods as medical and mobility equipment, white and brown goods and other household items.

New Holistic Approach

Evelyn Strouts, Head of Benevolence at the OA says, “Over the last year we have developed a more sophisticated and holistic service where it has become apparent that money is not the only “need” and that many of our clients would value some friendly contact to combat loneliness in addition to practical help. To that end, we approached The Silver Line and Age UK, each of which has a different friendship service.”

Collaboration with other Charities

Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of The Silver Line said of their service, “We are delighted to work with the OA and to provide a weekly telephone call or letter friend to their clients. We can also train their clients and Hon Reps to become volunteers for The Silver Line as volunteering is such a rewarding experience.”

John Edwards, Head of Service Delivery at Age UK said, “It’s great to be working with the OA to help to relieve the impact of loneliness on their clients. We will be providing telephone friendship and can direct clients to our many other services in their own area such as social activities and benefits advice which should help them as well.”

Chris Furlong, Chairman of the Grants Committee of the Civil Service Insurance Society (CSiS) Charity Fund, which is funding the pilots, said, “We know from feedback from many of the charities we support that loneliness is a significant factor in the lives of the people they help. Research conducted by various organisations has shown that loneliness and isolation can be detrimental to people’s mental and physical wellbeing, and has been proved to be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We feel that this initiative is very worthwhile.”

Making a Difference

Ken Roberts an Hon Rep for the OA volunteering in the Milton Keynes area says of his role, “I am delighted to volunteer as an Honorary Representative for the OA. The people we help have given a lot of their life to our Armed Forces and many of them now find themselves in difficulty in hard times or old age. To be able to make a difference to them as an Honorary Representative via the support the OA gives them is tremendously satisfying.

“In addition to financial and other support provided by the OA, we are increasingly discovering that our older beneficiaries are struggling with the effects of loneliness. The telephone friends service launched by the OA at the Hon Rep Conference is therefore a very welcome addition to the portfolio of support that is offered.”