A chance to chat

Chit Chat volunteers Margaret Golightly (left) and Joyce Dunn
Chit Chat volunteers Margaret Golightly (left) and Joyce Dunn

A FRIENDLY voice is now just a phone call away for isolated people after a new project was launched.

East Durham Trust has set up a new telephone befriending project called Chit Chat to help deal with the number of isolated and vulnerable people in the area.

The community organisation, based at Community House, in Yoden Road, Peterlee, is now recruiting and training volunteers who could take on the role of a befriender.

The volunteers will all have a small caseload of local people who have been referred by family or health professionals.

As well as checking on the welfare of individuals who have difficulty getting out and about they will also be providing a friendly voice and listening ear.

It is expected that up to 50 vulnerable people will benefit from the service and East Durham Trust are currently exploring new avenues to generate funding to increase this.

Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: “Being isolated and alone for long periods of time can have a detrimental effect on peoples mental health – this project will hopefully address that.”

He added being a befriender would also bring benefits, including boosting their CV and helping them make a worthwhile contribution to the community.

The project was conceived by East Durham Trust and East Durham Health Network, which is part of the County Durham Health and Wellbeing Partnership.

The project will not be ran on a helpline basis, it is specifically a reactive, outgoing service.

For this reason referrals will be made and clients will be allocated a volunteer “buddy” who will call them on a regular basis to check on their welfare and give advice on appropriate sources of additional support if necessary.

GPs, families, friends and community groups can all refer potentially isolated people who they feel would benefit from the service.

Ten volunteers are needed and they will be based at Community House.

They will be CRB checked and receive extensive training including mental health first aid, as well as gaining specific knowledge of suitable referral agencies such as the Samaritans or Age UK.

The volunteers will also have the ongoing support of the trust staff.

The telephone befrienders will donate between two and six hours of their time each week depending on what they can afford to spare.

To find out more, either about being a volunteer with the project or referring yourself, a relative or a friend, call (0191) 5693511.