To mark World Kindness Day today (Wednesday 13 November), and as part of its 25th birthday celebration, The National Lottery is shining a spotlight on the £48.8 million it has invested into befriending projects that provide companionship for people affected by loneliness or social isolation across the East of England over the last 25 years.
One project that has significantly benefitted from National Lottery funding in the region is Friends for Life (FFL), a charity that seeks to address the social isolation of residents in Bedford’s care homes.
Pauline Carter, FFL’s volunteer coordinator and trainer said, “There’s a misconception about people in care homes, that they’re fed and watered and surrounded by people, but staff are often so busy that there isn’t much time for them to just sit down with someone and have a conversation with some depth and meaning.
“We’re not replacing the care which is ongoing and on the large part very good, but we’re trying to put the icing on the cake.”
FFL, which was founded in 2007, has been supported with funds from The National Lottery. Its team of about 80 volunteers currently works in 32 care homes in Bedford.
Pauline continued, “It’s a friendly face that pops up once a week and maybe takes a newspaper or sits and has a cup of tea with them. Some volunteers take the care home resident out and about if they’re able to do that.
“One thing to really emphasise is that care homes do a very good job, but they just don’t have the flexibility to share a decent amount of time with just one person.
According to Age UK, 1.2 million older people in England are ‘chronically lonely’, and 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month.
“We see an incredible amount of kindness and generosity everyday which is very uplifting,” says Jennie Moore, marketing, media & community lead for FFL.
“In fact I had a conversation this morning with a local lady that runs a singing and dancing school. She was interested in taking her classes to perform at a few of the homes we work with so the residents don’t miss out on Christmas celebrations.”
FFL’s regular befrienders give up their time every week to visits elderly care home residents.
“I take my resident out for walks to the local park, have coffee and we chat,” said one of FFL’s volunteers, Chris, who befriends an elderly man with dementia.
“I know that he doesn’t remember my visits but I can see by his face and his general reactions that he loves the visits, the walk in the park and the opportunity to see other people.
“His care home is well run but he is still active and wants to get out and see the area and smell the fresh air. Whilst only once a week this is an important release for an active man who sees the same walls 24/7.”
Jennie says, “Social isolation and loneliness are not going away and are a nationwide problem particularly for this demographic.
“Raising the profile of the charity is essential if we are to continue to recruit new volunteers and engage with the local community, so we are incredibly grateful for the National Lottery award.”
Over the past 25 years, The National Lottery has given money to over 720 projects in the East of England which provide companionship.
UK-wide, around £850 million has been invested to directly help tackle loneliness and social isolation in communities.
Sacha Rose-Smith, Head of Funding for East of England at The National Lottery Community Fund said, “Being part of a community and building friendships makes people happier and healthier.
“Befriending groups help people connect with others and feel a sense of belonging. National Lottery players can feel proud of the positive difference they’re making to people and communities across the UK – The National Lottery’s 25th Birthday is a perfect time to celebrate this.”