Old and vulnerable people often feel lonely but a scheme from BHA has been successful in raising a smile and has recently achieved a national standard.
The Early Intervention Project, run by the Seton Care strand of the housing association has been running for a number of years now, pairing older people on both sides of the border with volunteers who call round regularly to help with shopping, gardening or just put the kettle on and have a natter.
The scheme, which has recently been renamed Seton Care Befrienders, has just achieved the Mentoring & Befriending Foundation’s Approved Provider Standard, a national quality mark for caring.
It currently has 21 volunteers on its books, catering for 30 service users.
Early Intervention co-ordinator Terri Bearhope said in an ideal world she’d love to designate one volunteer to each service user, having seen for herself what a huge difference the scheme can have.
“One of the boxes we had to tick to get the Provider Standard was to prove the benefits the scheme has had.
“They really are there for all to see. When I first meet a service user I quite openly take notes on how they are as a person; their home situation etc and then once they’re matched up with a volunteer I’ll visit them again to make sure everything is alright.
““Each user is then reviewed a year and in every case they speak so highly about their volunteer and how they miss them when they’re not around.”
Other required elements set down by the Mentoring & Befriending Foundation include: effective organisational and management structures in place; a clear process for the identification and referral of service users; service users being fully briefed about the project or service; there is a rigorous recruitment and selection process for volunteers and there is a process in place for matching service users with mentors/befrienders.
And Seton Care certainly seem to have worked particularly well on the latter, with both service users and volunteers sharing in Terri’s enthusiasm for the scheme.
Speaking about the experiences she shares with his service user Stephen, George from Coldstream commented: “I enjoy the fact that I’m helping two people by volunteering; both Stephen, whom I take out for a drive once a week or so, and his wife, who is his carer, who gets some time to herself. I know they’re both very grateful for the break.”
Commenting on the bond between her and her ‘friend’ Jean, Berwick volunteer Marjory said: ”I’m only supposed to visit Jean for an hour but we find so much to talk about that I end up staying longer. I love it!”
Discussing her experience of the scheme, service user Sally from Coldstream said: “We go out for coffee once a fortnight and Amy enjoys showing me the countryside. I like it too and it breaks up the week for me. I’d feel much more lonely otherwise.”
Marta from the Eyemouth area added: “I go for a coffee with my friend Tessa every month. It’s something to look forward to. She’s happy to listen to me.”