Stenhousemuir-based phone befriending service tackling lockdown loneliness

A telephone befriending initiative created to combat lockdown loneliness is helping those self-isolating feel connected to others, according to organisers.

By Jonathon Reilly
Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 4:45 pm

The Blether Together project was set up as part of Stenhousemuir Football Club’s community help hotline at the outbreak of Covid-19, which itself is supporting hundreds of families on a weekly basis.

Since its formation, volunteers have been holding regular phone calls with dozens of individuals who are experiencing mental health difficulties due to the effects of lockdown.

The initiative is being overseen by David Smith, who previously worked in finance and insurance in Hong Kong for 30 years.

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David Smith oversees Stenhousemuir FC's Blether Together telephone befriending service. Picture: Michael Gillen.

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Stenhousemuir FC community help hotline supporting hundreds of families

After returning home to Larbert, he was asked by Stenny vice chairman David Reid to take responsibilty for a group of volunteers who offer a listening ear and friendly voice to anyone struggling to cope with being on their own.

Six weeks on from starting his voluntary role, David has been taken aback by the impact of the Blether Together service.

He said: “I’ve been blown away by what they’re doing.

“A lot of the people we’re providing meals to are socially isolating because of the virus.

“They’re lonely and if they don’t have family they have nobody to talk to so that’s why we started this.

“It’s a phone call from a volunteer once or twice a week. It can last half an hour or an hour and we can do it more often. It’s to be there for the person who’s isolating.

“Even the volunteers doing the shopping for these people will stand back and have a chat for ten minutes and that’s really invaluable. It really makes a difference.

“We saw this coming and it’s started to grow. Over 50 people are now receiving the service from about 20 to 25 volunteers. These are just one part of the 150 community help hotline volunteers.”

A key element of the Blether Together service is it matches volunteers and phone call recipients based on their common interests and hobbies.

David regards this as crucial and says the responses support his theory.

He continued: “The feedback is it’s very valued and the volunteers also get something out of it.

“The majority of people are 70 and over but we’ve got a few younger people we’re speaking to who are self-isolating because of medical reasons.

“We have a number of volunteers who have stepped forward and a good mix of ages and backgrounds as well. It allows us to have a good base.

“We hope that by providing this service we can help to reduce loneliness and also support people with their mental health.

“Not having anybody around impacts on your mental health and having that simple chat about anything or nothing is proven to help.”

To get in touch with the Blether Together team, or another part of the community help hotline, call 01324 466563 (open Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm).