“I was amazed by how you matched us… I think the service, and the way you match people up, is a wonderful idea.”
This is just one of the many positive comments we’ve received in recent weeks about our new call companion service, launched back in April just after the UK was forced into a national lockdown.
We set up the service at great speed after taking the difficult decision to suspend our much-loved tea parties. We were deeply concerned about the impact of the pandemic on older people and felt it was our responsibility to provide safe, meaningful social contact for those feeling alone.
Of course, launching a new service in just a matter of weeks is a huge task and staff were already up against it; getting used to working from home and covering for some colleagues who were on furlough.
In fact, without our dedicated volunteers stepping up and organising phone call rotas for our tea party guests between them, it’s unlikely we would have been able to launch Call Companions at all.
Against all odds, we’ve managed to adapt in the face of this awful virus and successfully moved the organisation forwards in a genuinely valuable way.
As well as delivering the new service and maintaining contact with thousands of older people, we’ve also made improvements to the website and created a wealth of information and training for our volunteers online.
All of this helps us to deliver a better service - and the feedback we’ve been receiving speaks for itself. Older people tell us how much their call companion lifts their spirits; gives them a new perspective on life; makes them feel more positive about the world.
One older man said he always has a big smile on his face by the end of the phone call; a woman told us her decision to sign up was the “best and most valuable thing” she’s ever done.
We’re painfully aware that the longer the crisis goes on, the more despondent older people are feeling, especially as we head into winter. Hearing people tell us how much difference their blossoming friendship with their call companion is making, even at such an incredibly difficult time, spurs us on.
Even though the past six months haven't been easy, as one recipient of our new service put it, “Long may the calls continue!”
As the crisis rages on, let’s see what lasting value we can create together over the next six months.
'England was so different back then'
To mark Black History Month, we asked Harold, 81, to share his experience of moving to London from Jamaica in the 60s.
The People's Friend bus reaches its final stop
In September, The People's Friend yarn-bombed bus set off in style on a mission to bring cheer to the nation's streets.