Mr. C and his experience of looking for a befriender in Fife:

Mr. C, referred to the project by a family member, is one of the clients seeking befriending support. Mr. C is of Eastern-European origin and has recently struggled to engage with others and has not had as much social interaction as he used to before the pandemic started. His referrer informed us that they are his main carer, but due to their personal family commitments and responsibilities, they do not spend as much time as they would like socialising with Mr. C.

This is representative of the current reality in which older people are struggling to fully fulfil their need to socially interact:

  • Age Concern Scotland[1] reported that over 200,000 older people will go half a week without a visit or call from anyone and over 100,000 will feel lonely all or most of the time
  • Furthermore, ethnic minority communities[2], due to their reduced feelings of belonging to the immediate neighbourhood, experience significantly higher rates of loneliness and social isolation than the general older population

The Operational Assistant supporting Mr. C carried out research into the available befriending groups in Fife (check out list of befrienders in Fife[3]). We found 2 suitable organisations that operated in the client’s preferred area.

Challenges encountered, when referring the client to these groups:

  • On the website, one organisation was recorded as operating Fife wide, however, in an email response from this organisation, they said they do not offer befriending services in the client’s area.
  • The other organisation, while operating in the specified area has a long waiting list.

Despite these difficulties, both befriending groups were happy to help with the client’s request. The first organisation created a new list for people seeking befriending services in that area and consequently the client was put on both groups’ waiting lists.

Considering clients put on waiting lists may wait months before they receive a befriender. In the interim and with the hope of meeting the clients needs in the short term.  Mr. C attended Fife Migrant’s Forum (FMF) Conversational Café, which provides an opportunity for minority ethnic people to have a friendly chat to widen their social networks and improve their English. With permission from Mr. C, FMF said they will contact Mr. C’s referrer to discuss the opportunities for the client and decide upon suitable meeting times.

Outcome

Mr. C was put on several befriending groups’ waiting lists (long-term solution) and was referred to a local Conversation Café (short-term solution), thus increasing his chances of having his support needs met.

The FCE ME60+ project remains in contact with Mr. C to ensure he feels supported.

Learning

  • More resources are required for local befriending groups to develop their network and befriending capacity to operate in both more rural as well as urban areas.
  • Recruiting volunteering opportunities among minority ethnic communities will help these groups to better support a diverse group of users/clients.

[1] Tackling Loneliness | Age Scotland (ageuk.org.uk)

[2] Social isolation and loneliness in Scotland: a review of prevalence and trends (healthscotland.scot)

[3] Fife Befriending Service | Fife Council