What you need to know as a Befriender

 Befriending during COVOD-19 is a unique situation. Some people who would usually be able to go out are finding themselves isolated, lonely, feeling vulnerable and losing their independence. Others are facing new financial hardship overnight. You will be talking to people who may be scared and have spent a considerable amount of time alone and may not have spoken to other people for a while. You need to prepare yourself emotionally.

Be very boundaried; be clear that the befriending service is a ‘time limited relationship’.

Ensure befriendees give consent for their befriender to have their contact number and that it is stored securely and in confidence. 

Agree in advance the frequency and length of each call, and set up a schedule if possible, arranging phone calls for a certain day/time/duration

Establish with your referrer prior to matching whether the befriendee requires any additional support such as practical support/shopping and enquire whether this is in place. It is not your responsibility to provide, but being informed is.

As a befriender, it is up to you whether you disclose your number to a befriendee. 

·     To hide a number from a landline dial 141 and then the number; 

·     from an Android device go to the ‘phone’, press the vertical 3 dots for a drop down menu and select ‘settings’, select ‘supplementary services’, select ‘showing caller ID’, click ‘hide my number’; 

·     from an Apple device go to ‘settings’, select ‘phone’, select ‘show my caller ID’, slide the circle to the left to hide number and back to right (green) to show number.) 

Consider limiting the amount of information befrienders are given about the befriendee, such as family name. 

A befriender should not disclose their address to a befriendee.

Make sure you know how to escalate things if the befriendee fails to answer the telephone after several attempts in a certain time frame. 

What types of things to ask a Befriendee and how to escalate a concern

If appropriate, ask your befriender to check in on their befriendee's wellbeing:

·     asking are they eating well and staying hydrated

·     enquiring do they have enough food, and have a plan to get more delivered if necessary 

·     enquiring are they taking and have access to any medication which they might need

·     encouraging them to keep in touch with people over the phone or digitally if they can

·     recommending listening to a chatty radio station and if they are feeling lonely to put some extra pictures around of people they care about. 

·     asking if they require need further support eg topping up their electricity

·     Enjoy making connections with new people and giving back to your community

 Do not offer advice outside of your expertise; find someone more qualified to help. Make sure you know what to do if they are concerned about the befriendee’s wellbeing or if you are concerned about your own wellbeing. 

In the first instance, contact the person who gave you the referral. If you believe there is an immediate safeguarding risk raise it with a Matching Specialist straight away.

 Some tips: things to talk about with a Befriendee about managing self-isolation

·     Stay connected - ask about friends/family. Have they got contact details? Can they text, email or phone to keep regularly connected? 

·     Stay Active - have they got a garden, can they do something out there, do they like music, could they dance around; how about chair exercises? The NHS website has details. Offer to email the link to them.

·     Give - do you have friends especially older friends or relatives, could you give them a call, or write to them, letters and postcards may really be appreciated

·     Keep Learning - have they always promised themselves to learn a new language or how to crochet – maybe this is the time! Is there a book they were meaning to read?

·     Taking Notice - encourage them to listen! Can they hear the birds singing? Can they see the flowers opening outside? What about noticing how they are feeling? Are they staying hydrated and drinking enough, for example? 

·     Ask  - what three things they will do to look after themselves before you talk again.


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