Age UK Bucks puts the interests of older people in Buckinghamshire at the centre of everything they do by supporting them to achieve and maintain their independence and wellbeing. Their services are focused on this aim and include: Befriending Plus, Information and Advice, Welfare Benefits support and a range of home services including gardening, help at home, handy person, Neat Feet service and hairdressing.
In common with many charities, meeting demand for services is always a challenge with limited resources. The Befriending Plus service covers the whole of Buckinghamshire, apart from Milton Keynes, and depends on volunteers to deliver the face-to-face befriending visits to clients. More volunteers are always needed.
Grant to Restructure the Befriending Service
The Clare Foundation awarded a grant that enabled the Charity to restructure the staffing of the Befriending Plus service, enhancing the roles of the then Coordinators to Area Facilitators and increasing their working hours. This has enabled them to focus on getting to know the local areas in which they work and build up key relationships and networks so that they can best support their communities. This has also allowed them to promote their volunteering opportunities.
Age UK Bucks has been able to develop regular drop-in sessions at Steele Claydon in a local church, reaching people in this rural community and providing information, advice and befriending support to people who may not otherwise contact them.
They also have a regular drop in at Open Door in High Wycombe. This town centre venue enables the Charity to reach passers by who, once again, may not contact them directly, including members of diverse communities.
Befriending Service Case Study
This short case study illustrates the difference the Age UK Bucks Befriending Plus service can make and highlights the new focus on digital connectivity as an example:
Mr X contacted AUKB seeking help with digital inclusion. He has an iPad and mobile phone. One of his grandchildren had set him up but they had done it very quickly and Mr X was not confident with either device. Mr X wanted to improve his confidence to use the mobile phone and to learn how to use emails on his iPad. In the longer term he thought he might like to do online shopping.
During lockdown, the Area Facilitator kept a regular dialogue and encouraged Mr X to check his emails. He managed to do this and to send a short reply. When he raised an issue which needed a handyman’s input, the Facilitator talked through a google search with him and sent a couple of contacts for him to try. Mr X was very grateful and was able to sort the problem. We continued to help Mr X with similar queries and he got used to receiving emails. When the lockdown restrictions allowed, Mr X was keen to meet the Area Facilitator and pursue his digital goals. We assessed that he would need on-going support to achieve these goals and matched Mr X with a volunteer with digital skills. They have met several times and the partnership is working well. Mr X’s family send him photos and this helps to make him feel connected. He wants to be able to move photos between devices next. His confidence with emails is improving and he requests for information to be sent by email and this work is ongoing.
Feedback from Clients
In 2021, Age UK Bucks received 324 referrals for Befriending Plus and has 565 clients currently in the service, who had this to say:
‘My volunteer has made such a difference – we are good friends’
‘My volunteer has helped me with the internet and we get on really well together’
‘The visit gives me something to look forward to every week’
‘The Befriending Service really helped me after I lost my husband and I was at a very low ebb’
You can find out more about the Age UK Bucks Befriending Plus service here: https://youtu.be/oKmTy8CgPT0
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