Most of us feel lonely from time to time. Still, some of us are at a greater risk as other factors contribute to this crippling feeling such as moving to another country & not knowing the language as a first language, old age, social anxiety, living alone, and many more. Especially, the current climate regarding the coronavirus pandemic made everyone feel more and more isolated with lockdowns, losing loved ones, not feeling safe, and not feeling supported by the government and/or society. Wanting to connect and commute is a very humane treat, and we believe nobody who desires to feel connected should feel lonely. Having said that, as Dialogue Society, in partnership with Time to Help UK, we aim to start a befriending campaign to connect and bring people together to tackle loneliness. With our project, “Talking Bubble”, we will create a phone-befriending service that matches people most at risk of loneliness with bilingual volunteers to get in touch with one another, get to know, check in on each other, and most importantly create friendships that will make life better.
Everybody needs and should have somebody to talk to. According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS) people who feel particularly lonely include those aged between 16 and 24 & +65, being widowed, having poor health and those with caring responsibilities and those who are unemployed or have caring responsibilities, being from minority backgrounds and having a language barrier. With these data and the current highest levels of loneliness due to the global pandemic, we would like to make a difference and provide services that directly improve the number and quality of relationships these individuals have.
Both the Dialogue Society and Time to Help UK have dedicated and hardworking volunteers who try to make their communities a better and safe place for everyone. Majority of these volunteers are also bilingual with English and a mother-tongue such as Kurdish, Turkish, Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Albanian, Greek, Arabic, and many more languages. These volunteers will play a vital role in delivering this service. After well-equipped training for the program and a thorough DBS check, our volunteers will be matched with individuals who feel lonely or are at the most risk of loneliness and reached out for help. We will match our volunteers with people who speak the same language and who share similar interests as them. We will reach these individuals through our local councils and current network. The volunteers will be supported throughout the whole program to deliver the best service to those in need.
The matched volunteer and the individual will have scheduled phone calls throughout the program. The phone befriending service will eliminate the loneliness’ impact on mental and physical health, create strong social networks and most importantly build friendships.
The smallest gestures can go a long way. We know ‘just checking in’ can make all the difference in the world for someone who has been out of touch or has been feeling lonely. We believe the befriending project will create life-changing connections and make sure no one we come in contact with is feeling lonely.
The purpose of the project includes:
- Supporting people most at risk of loneliness
- Effective services to address and tackle loneliness
- Building bridges and dialogue amongst communities
- Inspiring people to connect with others
- End chronic loneliness by establishing friendships
- Creating social connections and maintaining wellbeing
- Boosting morale and spirit
Project Deliverables and Beneficiaries
- People most at risk of loneliness:
- People from minority (BAME) communities
- People living alone
- People with depression and/or social anxiety
- People of old age
Our Principles and Practices
In working with older people in our community, the Talking Bubble has a key set of principles that provides the basis on which we work with individuals who use our service.
- The United Kingdom has a diverse and vibrant community, and through our work, we will embrace the diversity, respecting the different skills, knowledge, experiences, and cultural influences that individuals bring to the project.
- Individual’s right to choose their own path and to establish their own goals no matter how small or large these may be.
- To promote befriending which is non-judgmental.
- To take our lead from our beneficiaries, allowing them to decide on the type of befriending and support they require.
- To listen to and support a beneficiary and aim to encourage them to become more independent and active.
- To embrace a positive outlook on the work we do and those in our community, recognizing that everyone is unique and has something of value to offer.
Aims Outcomes and Milestones
- Beneficiaries will be encouraged to maintain their current interests and/or activities.
- Project workers and volunteers will encourage and support the formation of autonomous interest groups and new social networks.
- Encourage more people to volunteer as befrienders, including school and college students.
- Volunteers are also potential project beneficiaries, a role that can change over time as people’s short and long-term situation changes.
- Improve self-sufficiency and community-sufficiency in travel which will provide a substantial asset to the community and individuals
- Assist in identifying issues and supporting needs
- To encourage individuals to take part in activities outside their homes
- To monitor and track of progress and outcomes of the project. This will include the use of soft outcomes measures (e.g. Outcomes Star for older people).
- External evaluation of the project will be initiated from the outset of the project through commissioning a research study. This will influence the nature of the data collected. Reports from the external evaluation will be regularly submitted to the steering committee for consideration and action.
It is intended to create the following by the end of the project:
- A programme/handbook of volunteer recruitment and training etc. will be developed for future use.
- A full report on the experience of lonely population’s engagement in community activities.
- Case studies and statistical information to demonstrate the effectiveness and benefits of providing a befriending service.