Age Concern Cookstown
Age Concern in Cookstown received a grant of £44,000 to support the re-establishment and running costs of a Befriending Scheme in Cookstown and surrounding areas.
Older people were involved in the form of 12 members of the Management Board, ranging from early fifties to the oldest member who is now 90. The Management Board oversaw the running of the Befriending Scheme and supported the Co-ordinator.
Since Age Concern set up the Befriending Scheme, around 30 clients have benefitted with more being placed on a waiting list to be matched up with suitable volunteers.
Volunteers not only bring friendship to the clients but they also bring them information about different events and activities, and topics which were of interest to them.
Every client on the scheme has benefitted from a home security project which was recently completed with funding from Cookstown District Council, and 3 clients have had door intercom installed through funding from the Lloyds TSB Foundation.
Through the scheme, Age Concern were able to refer the clients onto other organisations and services such as Help the Aged Handy Van, Aid Call, Council Home Safety Scheme, Good Morning Magherafelt, Council Energy Efficiency Checks and Access to Benefits.
One of the main highlights of the programme was the fact that it has become clear to those involved that strong friendships have been made through the Befriending Scheme, and they will hopefully continue for many years to come.
When volunteers were told that funding may be an issue in the future, they all said they would continue to visit their clients. Not all of the volunteers did claim travel expenses, but even those who do, still wished to continue their visits.
It can prove difficult trying to organise training for the volunteers as it was as hard to get a date and time which suited everyone, so sometimes Age Concern had to organise a couple of sessions for training to help suit everyone.
In some cases, they were unable to match clients with volunteers, mainly due to geographical reasons. Most of the clients on the scheme did not wish to have anyone visit them who lived too close to their home.
Volunteers from time to time experienced problems. In one case, the client became quite reliant on the volunteer who ended up having to make two or three visits per week, especially when the client was not feeling well. The volunteer was happy to devote a few more hours per week as she knew it would not be on a permanent basis.
In another case, the volunteer found it very difficult to get more than a few words out of her client who had been recently bereaved. When Age Concern organised an Open Day for their new premises and asked volunteers to pass on invites to their clients, the client was absolutely delighted with the invitation and came along to the event.
After that, the volunteer and the client got along ‘like a house on fire’.