Thorpe Helping Hands tackles loneliness with ‘Check & Chat’ phone call service

Press release – June 11 2020

A volunteer group in Thorpe St Andrew is keen to contact residents who would like regular befriending calls to combat loneliness and isolation during the Covid-19 crisis.

Thorpe Helping Hands – a grassroots group set up in response to the crisis – has established a free ‘Check & Chat’ service which is proving popular with users.

With Loneliness Awareness Week taking place from June 15 – 19, the group hopes to highlight the service to those who might be feeling lonely, isolated or anxious.

Katie, coordinator at Thorpe Helping Hands, said: “We already have five volunteers who regularly ring 10 residents in Thorpe St Andrew and Thorpe Hamlet. We also have more volunteers undergoing training and more residents lined up for the service.

“The lockdown means that many folk are self-isolating, so they have been stuck at home since March, with very little human contact, which can be depressing and worrying.”

“We can collect shopping or prescriptions for them but this befriending service is a real bonus on top of those errands.”

“Our volunteers ring for a weekly chat and help keep the residents’ spirits up. We can check all is well and build a friendly rapport.”

“We have been very impressed by the enthusiasm of our volunteers and we are getting lovely feedback from the residents about how this is making them feel.”

All the volunteers are vetted before they begin the calls and are given training about issues such as safe-guarding and communication skills.

There is support from the Thorpe Helping Hands team so any issues that may arise can be quickly sorted. These can range from quick errands such as delivering TV listings magazines up to regular weekly shopping trips.

Volunteers include those who have experience talking to vulnerable adults and all of them make a valuable contribution in supporting the residents who are accessing this scheme.

One volunteer Mrs M has a rota of five residents who she has been ringing each week since mid-May.

“It is lovely to chat to these folk and find out about their lives and memories of times past,” she said.

“They all seem delighted to talk to me when I ring and they will chat away merrily for up to an hour – it’s sometimes hard for me to get a word in edgewise.”

“We can check they’re OK for food, shopping, medication and other essentials and also make sure they’re up to date with the latest advice about Covid-19.

“As they are not going outside, it’s vital for them to keep in touch with what’s happening locally, so we chat about local shops, garden centres, surgeries and other places that they might visit when they are able to get out and about.”

“Some of them tell me that they don’t speak to another person from one week to the next, so the service that THH offers is crucial.”

Mrs C is one of the service users who receives calls from Mrs M every week.

She said: “I feel the calls are helpful. When I get the calls, I think there’s not much to say – but then I never stop talking, as it’s so nice to talk to someone friendly.

“I do enjoy talking to people. I am surprised that I have so much to talk about. People are stuck at home day after day, so it’s important to have phone calls.”

Another Thorpe Helping Hands coordinator, Inga, said THH is keen to offer the service to other residents.

If you or someone you know would like to take advantage of the ‘Check and Chat’ service, please contact on the THH freephone number: 01622 370527.

As well as the ‘Check and Chat’ service, THH offers other support for local families, such as deliveries of essentials, running errands and help with shopping.