Volunteer virtual befriending programme in Lambeth Extracare 

27 April 2021

Written by: Claudia Wace, Connectforce Community

Health and Wellbeing - Voluntary and community sector

Volunteer performing artists enjoy “the power of a good chat” with Lambeth Extracare housing residents to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

Main post content

Volunteer virtual befriending programme in Lambeth Extracare 

The effects of social isolation in older adults can increase the risk of dementia or other health concerns. According to the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ up to two-million over-50s will feel lonely or isolated by 2025/6. Some older adults can go weeks or months with no contact from another person.

Connectforce Community

Set up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, social initiative Connectforce Community saw an opportunity to alleviate loneliness, with a natural fit with the arts world. They’ve fundraised and worked tirelessly to provide UK care homes with electronic communication devices (tablets and laptops) to help older people stay connected with the outside world. To date, they have helped more than 8,000 people in the UK in over 300 care homes.

Creative companionship

Margaret at St Peter's Care Home

Connectforce companionship

To go further, they developed virtual befriending programme Connectforce Companions. Since February, volunteers from the arts sector have been Companions for residents at St Peter’s, the Lambeth care scheme run by the Catholic group Little Sisters of the Poor.  Connectforce worked with residents living in independent flats adjacent to the care home, what we would call Extracare. Each week, the Companions share a 30 minute video call, to talk about whatever they like. All companions are trained, DBS checked, and personally matched to residents. One volunteer is Tim Bentinckt who plays David Archer in ‘The Archers’. Conversations so far have included chats about cricket, literature, local history, and suggestions of places to visit post lockdown.

Communication and connection

Victoria Basten, co-founder and musical theatre performer, said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the wonderful relationships between the ladies at St Peter’s and our volunteer Companions. Both have gained equal joy from their new friendships. It reaffirms just how valuable connection is.”

More information