Befriending services, support and opportunities

What is befriending?

Everyone needs other people, but not everyone has someone. For people who become isolated because of ill-health, disability or social disadvantage, being matched with a befriender often fills a big gap.

Befriending offers supportive, reliable relationships through volunteer befrienders to people who would otherwise be socially isolated. Around the UK there are befriending projects which organise effective support for children and young people, families, people with mental ill health, people with learning disabilities and older people, amongst many others.

The results of befriending can be very significant. Befriending often provides people with a new direction in life, opens up a range of activities and leads to increased self-esteem and self-confidence.

Here are some of the befriending services and options.  Please note that while some of these services below are commissioned by Bromley Council or the NHS, others are independent organisations and charities.

Advice and information

Let’s Talk Loneliness - This website brings together organisations, resources and inspirational stories that are united in a shared aim, to get more people talking about loneliness.

Mind – this website explains loneliness, including the causes of loneliness and how it relates to mental health problems. Gives practical tips to help manage feelings of loneliness, and other places you can go for support.

Marmalade Trust – this website helps to raise awareness about loneliness for all ages and contains a guide to loneliness which includes causes of loneliness, its impact on individuals and advice to help people who are experiencing loneliness.  A forum enables people to share their tips about how they managed feelings of loneliness during lockdown

Download and print the Befriending guide leaflet, and find information and support for dealing with loneliness and social isolation.

Support in your home

Some of these services offer online or telephone support at this time, but will resume in-person services as lockdown restrictions are eased in line with government guidance

Bromley Home Library Service

This free service is available for any resident of Bromley who is unable to visit their local library. Volunteers will visit you each month for a friendly chat and bring items of your choice which can include hardbacks, paperbacks, large print and talking books; books in different languages, music CDs, DVDs and any information you need.  Contact your local library for more information.  Volunteers are provided by Royal Voluntary Service bromley.hls@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk

Bromley libraries also offer a range of activities for parents and children, books clubs and other events.  These can be accessed through the Library Without Walls and in-person as government guidance allows.

Bromley Well 

As part of the Bromley Well suite of services, Age UK Bromley and Greenwich delivers the Community Befriendship Service for people aged 55 and over.  This free service offers telephone befriending, home visits and helps people get out and about, meet others, socialise and make new friends.

Bromley Well also offers a range of peer support and group activities for people providing unpaid care for family and friends, people with long-term health conditions, physical and learning disabilities and mental ill-health living in the borough. A full listing of upcoming activities and peer support groups can be found at: https://www.bromleywell.org.uk/events/ 

Careplus 

A registered charity which provides free volunteer support to older people aged 65+ throughout Bromley. This can be through shopping, befriending, transport to local places, gardening, basic DIY, and other practical help. 

CEYP

Offers mentoring and befriending to young adults aged 18-30.  This can be through befriending home visits or groups based at Geffery’s Hall in Mottingham.  Call 07951 651 761 for more information.

Dementia Befriending Service

The befriending service matches volunteers with clients who have a diagnosis of dementia and are registered with the Bromley Dementia Support Hub. It is a free service, borough-wide. Typically volunteers visit the clients for a couple of hours a week to offer companionship, encouragement and support. Activities, where possible, include shopping trips, a walk in the park etc. Training and support is offered to volunteers on an ongoing basis. 

Kent Association for the Blind

KAB provides volunteer befrienders for those experiencing sight loss of all ages.  They also provide information and advice to help people live independently and carry out assessments to identify support needs including equipment and assistive technology.  For more information call 020 8464 8406

Mindful Mums Befriending in Bromley, Orpington

Mindful Mums Befriending in Bromley provides pregnant women and new mums with regular, practical, social and listening support on a one-to-one basis. It is looking to extend this service to new dads as well.

Re-engage

Previously known as Contact the Elderly.  As well as their Sunday afternoon tea parties they also provide call companions, a free service for older people who live alone and feel they would enjoy a friendly phone call every week or two.

Faith groups

Many faith groups offer befriending and social activities for their local residents including coffee mornings, lunch clubs and other social activities.  These in-person activities will be resumed as soon as government guidelines allow.  They may also provide befriending phone calls or visits to those unable to leave their home.  Contact your local church for further information.  The following churches are examples of what can be on offer.

River Church, St Pauls’ Cray

Community workers and church members are matched to local residents who would benefit from a friendly chat.  The church also offers a number of activities including a twice weekly walking group, a crochet group, parent and toddler sessions once a week and an allotment for the green fingered.  For more information call 07763 445333

Christ Central Church, Penge

A coffee morning for local senior citizens called Silver Service will resume on Thursday mornings  as restrictions are lifted.  For more information call:  020 8676 8616

What you can do from your own home?

By telephone

  • Age UK: Call in Time - Call in Time   -  a free telephone befriending service for matching volunteers with older people for up to 30 minutes per week.
  • Independent Age - would you like to receive regular phone calls or visits from a friendly, dedicated volunteer? It's an opportunity to talk about things that interest you, or just have a catch-up and a chat.
  • Macular Society -  a telephone befriending service may be especially helpful if you cannot get to one of the Macular Society support group meetings but would like to talk to someone who has experience of macular disease.
  • The Silver Line  - operates the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On the internet

For young people

The Mix provides free, confidential help for under 25s online and via a helpline. Call 0808 808 4494, text THEMIX to 85258 or use their online chat service on the website.

For parents

Dadsnet – Dadsnet is a global online parenting platform connecting dads to parenting resources, entertainment & each other.

Mumsnet - Mumsnet is a website for parents in the UK. It hosts discussion forums where users share advice and information on parenting and many other topics.

Mush- A local social network of mums, so that you find other mums nearby, know what's going on, know where to go and organise meetups.

For older people

Gransnet forums - Gransnet is the busiest social networking site for the over 50s.

Gransnet forums: Grandads' shed - Grandads' shed is a space for men over 50.

Royal Voluntary Service Virtual Village Hall  A programme of themed online activities designed to enjoy at home such as creative arts and crafts, music and singing, cooking and baking, dance and exercise, and technology skills. Join in with live sessions or catch up on demand when suits it you. 

For unpaid carers

Carers UK Forum  -  Carers UK Forum is a supportive online community of current and former unpaid family carers who understand the ups and downs of caring.

For people with mental ill-health and their family/friends

Side by Side is open to anybody over 18 years who has an experience of mental health problems, or is closely connected to someone that has.

For people of all ages

Frindow - Frindow helps people of all ages make new friends through common interests or circumstances in order to put an end to loneliness.

Meetup - Meetup is an online social networking website/mobile app that facilitates offline group meetings.

Nextdoor - Nextdoor is the free private social network for your neighbourhood community.

Help to get out of the house and take part in social activities

  • CarePlus - provide a free local volunteer support service for older people including trips to medical appointments.
  • Re-engage - for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone, they can be collected from their home by a volunteer driver to go to Sunday tea.
  • Dial-a-ride -  Transport for London's door-to-door service for those with permanent or long-term disabilities.
  • Driving Miss Daisy - live life to the full with Driving Miss Daisy's safe, friendly, and reliable community companion and driving service. 
  • Royal Voluntary Service – help for older people to live independently in their own homes, including transport, befriending and Bromley’s home library service.

Volunteering

Befriending services and helping people to stay connected to their community would not be possible without the many hours given by Bromley residents to support these services.  If you are able to commit to making regular friendly phone calls or visits or help people to get out of their homes with some support you can do one of the following:

Contact one of the organisations above and find out more about their befriending opportunities.

Other organisations currently looking for volunteers include:

Please note that organisations will carry out a DBS check and that appropriate training will also be given where necessary to ensure the safety of both volunteers and those they are assisting.

  • Bromley Mind Peer Support Befriending volunteers with their own personal experience of mental distress help people who are struggling to get and about.  Volunteers can also help with social and special interest groups.
  • Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust have befriending volunteers to support those recently discharged from mental health services.  Email oxl-tr.volunteerprojects@nhs.net for more information.

Visit Bromley Volunteer Centre for more information about local volunteering opportunities, including befriending, through the Simply Connect Bromley database or arrange to discuss what kind of volunteering role you might be best suited for.

If you live near a care home, they may run a befriending programme for residents who do not have regular visits from family or friends.  A list of care homes in Bromley can be found in Bromley's guide to independent living, support and care services

Useful resources

  • Befriending Networks - is the UK's leading resource on befriending. Their members enjoy access to the latest research, training and advice to help them provide continuously high quality service.
  • Campaign to End Loneliness -  a network of national, regional and local organisations and people working together through community action, good practice, research and policy.
  • U3A (University of the Third Age) - a UK movement of retired and semi-retired people who come together to continue their educational, social and creative interests in a friendly and informal environment.