The Covid pandemic has amplified the issue of isolation and loneliness globally, and most of us now have some understanding of what that feels like.
In Brighton and Hove, where the issue has already been identified as being acute, and where we took on as many new referrals in the 3 months following lockdown as we did the previous year, our partner organisation Sussex Interpreting Service are supporting those with language barriers and have found that migrants are particularly at risk.
Together Co Befriending (TCB) and SIS have been working in collaboration for the last few years to ensure that befriending is accessible to those for whom English is not their first language. It is clear that Covid has been particularly isolating for this group as often they have fewer people they can connect with because of the language barrier.
There was a need to respond with speed and flexibility to meet urgent needs being identified as a result of the pandemic. Commissioners had made it clear that our funds could be used in different ways to the bid if appropriate during the Covid crisis.
TCB had already created a fast track recruitment and training programme to accommodate the 200 or so volunteers who approached us in the first few weeks of lockdown. We were able to share these resources and training with SIS who had a pool of volunteers willing to offer bilingual telephone befriending. It made sense to pool our assets and strengths so that SIS could quickly develop a bilingual telephone befriending service. We helped them in providing a critical friend during the set up process and lots of resources to help ensure they were following good practice. In the first 2 weeks of the project SIS trained and matched up 11 befrienders with vulnerable members from the BME community.
Vikki Gimson Quality Assurance Manager at SIS said: “We were able to use the resources and training Together Co had put together, also very rapidly as a result of the Covid crisis, which has saved a lot of time and effort. We made some changes to documentation to better reflect our target demographic but these were minimal. We were keen to maintain the spirit of Together Co’s guidelines which are very really beautifully written and very humane.”
One of their volunteers said: “Even though I have lived in Brighton for many years, the volunteering role has helped me feel much more involved in my local community.”
This is a short term measure, and when appropriate, we will work together to transfer in a planned and structured way the administration of bilingual befriending back to Together Co.
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© 2019 Together Collective a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England and Wales: Company No. 03895574, whose registered office is Projects The Lanes, Nile House, Nile St, Brighton BN1 1HW. Together Collective is a registered charity: Charity No. 1083390