We are today announcing that we have secured a strategic grant from Benefact Trust to enable our work combating social isolation and loneliness among older people to continue expanding at this key time. We work with churches and Christian organisations to help set up local befriending schemes, called ‘Two’s Company Befriending’, and we also now run training courses for volunteers involved in projects that engage with those at risk of loneliness. The grant comes at a time in which many people remain anxious about re-engaging within local communities following the challenges of lockdown in particular.
The £145,000, three-year grant towards the £350,000 project will enable us to specifically focus on building partnerships with key organisations and churches in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This will be carried out by appointing National Development Managers within each country, who will then build networks, raise further funding and research those areas that would benefit most from initiatives which address loneliness among older people. The aim will be to establish 75 befriending schemes across the three countries by the end of three years, reaching 900 new people experiencing loneliness and social isolation and recruiting at least 375 new volunteers. Opportunities will also be provided for church-based community projects to receive volunteer training focusing on improving communication skills. A further element of the project will involve training 50 volunteers in offering prayer and spiritual support in their local communities where opportunities arise.
Jeremy Sharpe (National Director of Linking Lives UK) explains: “This grant provides us with a really exciting opportunity to enhance and strengthen our existing work to address loneliness but with a specific additional focus on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Although we already have some partnerships in these countries, we are very aware of the need for cultural, religious and political knowledge as networks are developed. Being able to appoint a team member with this in mind will enable a joined up approach to be taken, and networks developed on a national, regional and local level. We plan to begin in Scotland where we have already raised some matched funding, and then continue in Northern Ireland.”
Jeremy continues: “We are also pleased to be able to actively encourage some of our existing befriending project partners to nominate volunteers to be trained in roles which encourage prayer and spiritual growth (where there is an interest in this). Many older people (and others) are increasingly seeking answers about the meaning of life, and this will equip volunteers to be able to respond to some of these questions. We are extremely grateful to Benefact Trust for their support with this key work in addressing loneliness at this time.”
Benefact Trust is one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities and awarded more than £23 million to churches, charities and communities in 2020. Its funds come from its ownership of the Benefact Group.
Andrew Bass, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “Loneliness and isolation in older people has always been an issue, but sadly the challenges of the pandemic have further exacerbated the problem. We’re pleased to be supporting Linking Lives UK to expand its vital befriending work through new schemes, training and volunteer opportunities across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This will help to address the needs of many more people who are struggling with loneliness.”
Linking Lives UK will be looking to build networks with key organisations and individuals across these three countries as part of the initial planning and preparation. This includes potential partners, those interested in assisting with funding and others who may be interested in contributing in any other way. More information can be requested by emailing Jeremy Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.