Somerset Stories: Active and In Touch

Active and In Touch offers a befriending service and other vital support to isolated and lonely adults and older people in Frome and the surrounding villages.

We spoke to manager Dougie Brown, who told us more about how their £2,000 grant from The Somerset Fund is helping them continue to save lives – by changing lives.

“The majority of our work is one-to-one befriending for people who are experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Most of the people we support are over 65 and tend to be experiencing permanent loneliness – from losing a life partner or a soul mate. Around 30% of the people we see are experiencing temporary loneliness due to being new to the area, or they are vulnerable and have mobility issues which means they are unable to leave their home. But ultimately, we’re here for all adults over 18.

We have over 300 volunteers who do one hour a week, plus 25 community drivers – and eight of our volunteers do both the befriending service and the driving. We like to match people with a volunteer who has similar hobbies and interests. We find that people build up more of a rapport if they have common interests, which can then snowball – meeting friends of friends and so on. The majority of people are referred to us by a GP or health care professionals, and the rest are self-referrals.

Our volunteer drivers take people on essential journeys such as to the GPs, the hospital, or going to a regular social group for example. We’ve done over 200 trips to vaccination centres in the last six months. We currently do the shopping for 52 people in the Frome area. It used to be shopping with people, but since the pandemic we now do a lot of shopping for people.

The grant we received from The Somerset Fund was for staffing costs, which makes up nearly all of our core running costs, and it’s mainly to coordinate our volunteers. We’re here to help people’s health and wellbeing, and alleviate the effects of isolation and loneliness. People over 65 experiencing isolation and loneliness are four times more likely to have a heart attack. It has a real impact on your health.

Ultimately, loneliness is never going to be defeated and people will always need help. And in Frome and the surrounding villages everyone can reach out for help; if it’s not to your friends and family, then it’s to us.

Just £2 pays for someone to visit for one hour. A £100 donation pays for someone to be visited every week for a year. It’s saving lives by changing lives: a lot of the time it’s just about getting that confidence back, and it makes a huge difference. And the really lovely thing is that if we stopped doing this tomorrow, out of our 300 volunteers, at least 100 would continue to go on their visits; because through our matched befriending they’ve become real, true friends.”

14 July 2022

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