Charity struggles to identify the lonely after recruiting volunteers to help

Lonely streets: Barnsley Road, GoldthorpeLonely streets: Barnsley Road, Goldthorpe
Lonely streets: Barnsley Road, Goldthorpe
A charity working to help tackle social isolation across Dearne Valley communities in Barnsley has found itself struggling to find candidates needing help from the volunteers it has recruited.

The charity Befriend was brought in by the Dearne Area Council, a body made up of Barnsley councillors who represent the area, to help tackle what is known to be a problem of residents who are detached from mainstream society.

The organisation relies on volunteers and in the six months it has been operating has recruited six people to act as ‘befrienders’, making weekly calls to those who would otherwise have no visitors, with another six about to complete their introduction.

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But the charity’s Mike Niles told area council members they were no having problems identifying suitable candidates who would benefit from help, even though it was known that loneliness was an issue in the area which includes Goldthorpe, Bolton on Dearne and Thurnscoe.

“We are having quite a difficult time in getting suitable referrals for isolated people,” he said.

“We have volunteers ready, but we have not received enough professional referrals. We have been to GP’s surgeries, community nurses and physios. It is a plea for word of mouth referrals. It is quite frustrating when we have people ready and waiting."

The charity is preparing to work with Sheffield University in an attempt to quantify the value of work done in communities, which is credited with helping to reduce the effects of dementia, depression and the frequency some people need to see their doctor.

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“Befrienders pop in once a week for an hour for a chat and although it is only once a week and an hour, for people who have no chance of seeing anyone, and the monotony of that, it is important that they know someone is coming.”

The charity has also set up social groups in Thurnscoe and Bolton on Dearne, which meet weekly and offer activities meant to be mentally and physically stimulating for those who attend.

They are now looking for suitable premises to set up a similar group in Goldthorpe.