Clarissa lives on her own, she used to be a nurse before she became a full-time carer to her severely disabled daughter. In recent years she has suffered with a number of bereavements, including the daughter that she cared for and her son. Her only remaining child also has disabilities and needs constant assistance.
Clarissa has previously volunteered as support for people whose children were also disabled and did a lot of work advocating for disabled people’s rights. She has found it hard to accept help, as she has always been independent and the one to help others, she is not used to receiving assistance. However, the befriending phone calls have helped her with her loneliness and the fact that there is someone who rings on a regular basis helps alleviate her isolation.
She has been speaking to the same volunteer for over 6 months. They both have a love of crafts and genealogy. They regularly spend the entire phone call saying how they could put the world right. The conversations that Clarissa and her volunteer have vary each week covering everything from the war in Ukraine and gardening to aliens and conspiracy theories. Both Clarissa and her volunteer benefit from the calls as they both enjoy the wide range of topics covered and feel like they learn something new from each other.
Joy has been receiving calls since November 2021. She has mobility issues so cannot get around quickly. She has not been out of the house much since Covid started and she hasn’t shown any interest in going out.
Joy does not own a tv instead she spends her time listening to the radio and colouring.
She has incredibly supportive neighbours and friends who do her shopping and even organised for a vicar to come to her house to do communion with her which she hasn’t had in over 2 years!
Joy speaks to the same volunteer every other week and then alternates volunteers the other week so that she has a wide range of people to talk to, which she appreciates. She is a very chatty lady who can talk about a wide range of topics, she says she loves having her calls especially with younger volunteers as she feels like she is staying in touch with the world around her.
Sandra has only been receiving the befriending phone calls for a few weeks, she has had lots of bereavements in the last few years. She has lost her parents and all of her siblings. Sandra had a heart attack in 2021 and other serious health issues. She said she was in a dark place because of how lonely she felt, and how she felt like she had no-one to talk to.
She now receives the befriending phone calls once a fortnight and looks forward to them immensely, she has recently really connected with one of our volunteers and the volunteer has said how much of a darling Sandra is and how much she looks forward to the calls as they both benefit from having someone to talk to. Both Sandra and the volunteer enjoy having the calls with each other as they have a lot in common.
She stays in bed most of the day as she feels tired all the time and doesn’t really like going out. She does like to sit in the garden from time to time, she speaks fondly about her family and her siblings. Sandra feels that the dark cloud has gone, and the sun is shining through! all thanks to a simple phone call.
Our volunteer Fiona spoke to Martha today a week after she was referred to Karen from RotherFed’s Making Our Money Go Further Project. Martha was over the moon with all the help Rotherfed had been able to offer her. Last week she was referred to MOMGF after she disclosed during a friendship call that she was really worried about her finances and the rising cost of living. She was in a real anxious state. Karen called her promptly and was able to offer some help and also referred her on to Citizens Advice who have helped to get her money situation under control, this was all done in just 3 days. She is now due a large council tax rebate and her gas and electric bills have been lowered.
When Fiona rang her today, she informed me of everything that Karen and Anne from citizen’s advice have done for her, she was so happy with everything we have done to help her, she said a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders and she’s now in a position where she isn’t scared of using her gas and electric anymore. She stated that the volunteer was a “god send” and couldn’t imagine where she would have turned if it wasn’t for the calls.
She said, “if my knees and elbows were up to it I would be doing cartwheels up and down the street”.
Our volunteer reported that Martha spent over half an hour on the phone singing everyone’s praises saying if our volunteer hadn’t suggested referring her to the Money Management team then she would be in an awful situation with her money and wondering how she would make ends meet. Now she feels secure in the knowledge that she is in a much better place with her money and isn’t scared of what the future holds.
Vera has been on the service for a short while. She is a lovely lady who suffers from COPD so is unable to get out and about. She has the support of a family but with them not living local she gets lonely. On a recent call log from one of our volunteers there was a note from Vera herself asking the volunteer to pass on a message. Its simply said can you ask your manager to give me a call as I would like to provide feedback on the service. We gladly obliged, we called Vera and although she wasn’t feeling well, she really wanted to let us know how the service has changed her life and how the volunteer was a lifeline for her. She said the volunteer was like a tonic and she always felt better after speaking with her, said she really looks forward to the conversations because the volunteer is so positive.
Christine is a telephone befriending volunteer who had to stop volunteering with us due to ill health, she promised that as soon as she was better, she would return. True to her work after an 8-month break Christine contacted us out of the blue saying she would like to return to making the calls. Naturally we were over the moon, when we asked what made her decide to come back, she said “There is nothing more rewarding than giving back and making a difference in the lives of people in the Rotherham community” she then went on to explain that talking to a stranger can help both the caller and the recipient and that it had a positive impact and improved her own mental health.
Terry is a wonderful chap that lives alone and is quite isolated as there are problems around the accommodation he lives in. When we first assessed him he said that nobody would want to talk to him because he was boring! Terry has been matched with different volunteers but recently has struck up a friendship with Nina, Nina has helped Terry much, even getting help to him following a personal situation. She convinced him to attend a recent coffee morning, they met face to face and the volunteer also helped Terry with some documents he had brought in. Previous to this Terry had not been out of his flat, was very anxious and wouldn’t have contemplated attending if it wasn’t for Nina. Since the initial meet they have met up again at a coffee morning and wow, the difference in Terry was there for everyone to see, full off smiles, came straight into the event, no hesitation. Was happy to chat to everyone. He is now thinking of venturing to the snooker hall he used to visit pre lockdown.
Jamie was referred to us after it was noticed that he visited the local supermarket on a daily basis just for company. Covid and isolation had left him with severe anxiety. Jamie lives on his own and found lockdown especially hard as he doesn’t like to be alone.
We spoke with Jamie and invited him along to events that we were holding. This took lots of coaxing as although quite confident, lockdown had left Jamie suffering with panic attacks, which was quite debilitating for him. He did manage to get to one of our coffee mornings and from then going forward there was no stopping him.
Whilst panic attacks are still part of everyday life for Jamie, we have been able to reason with him and continue to find solutions to enable him to attend events, to get him out from those four walls that have trapped him for so long. We established that his driving is starting to cause him anxiety so have provided him with ideas such as using door to door or taxi’s every now and then.
Jamie is very rarely in now, he sings in a choir in Sheffield, often singing solo male parts, he has a number of friends that he visits and supports, and he never misses a coffee morning, where he really enjoys a chat. Things have been hard for Jamie and it’s sad to see how his mental health declined during the pandemic, but with interventions we have seen a significant improvement and we continue to support Jamie with whatever hurdles he faces.
Andrew was our very first referral to the service back in April 2020 just at the start of the first lockdown. The initial referral said he was isolated and shielding and had been for 6 weeks. He likes fishing and watching history programmes on TV. He just needs a friendly voice to talk to.
Our volunteer Terry has called Andrew every two weeks for a chat for the past 2 years now, Andrew very rarely misses a call. They chat about all sorts often picking up where they left off the time before. They both were miners so have some common ground.
Andrew is able to get out and about a little more, and he goes to his daughters sometimes for lunch. He still appreciates and needs the chat with Terry as he doesn’t have anyone else during the day.
Again, the service has provided a lifeline, who would have thought that the pandemic would have carried on for so long with people like Andrew shielding for over 12 months.
Volunteers are amazing, whilst we cannot go into too many details in this case study, I would like to highlight what a difference our volunteers make.
Our volunteers between them talk to on average 150 people a week, these are purely friendship calls but sometimes things come up in conversation that are ‘not quite right’. We have things in place to ensure if there is something that does transpire following the call that the volunteer knows exactly what to do. Our volunteers know not to investigate or try to “fix” anything but know if their senses are telling them something is amiss what they need to do.
We had a call from a volunteer saying she was worried about a recipient as he wasn’t answering which was unusual, she kept trying and this went on for a few weeks. As this was highly unusual we put things in place to try and contact him by other means. Eventually the volunteer managed to speak to Tyler who informed her there had been an incident that had left him isolated in his accommodation, unable to leave the house and very frightened, he wasn’t answering the phone or door, his mental health was on the decline.
Our volunteer reported this straight in and highlighted her concerns. We contacted the appropriate channels and the outcome was that he got support from social services to start and sort the situation. I hate to think what might have happened if we hadn’t been involved.