Appeal for good companions as Staffordshire Housing Group launches befriending service

Pensioner Ivy Bentley had just one regular visitor to her home until she took advantage of a new befriending service.

Ivy, who lives alone near Hanley, had suffered a fall just before Christmas last year when she was contacted by the Revival Home Improvement Agency, which is part of Staffordshire Housing Group.

Now Revival is appealing for volunteers to come forward to help older or vulnerable residents across Stoke-on-Trent.

Despite daily visits from her son, Ivy spends many hours alone. When Revival suggested she could be paired with a befriending volunteer, Ivy leapt at the chance to receive a regular new visitor.

“I do get very lonely. It’s only a small flat but it feels very big when you’re on your own,” said Ivy, 75, who was separated from her husband and widowed some years ago.

In stepped student Janine Stanley, who has been visiting Ivy weekly since before Christmas.

Janine is in the second year of a degree course at Staffordshire University and says the scheme has benefits for both visitors and clients.

“I know Ivy looks forward to me visiting. The difference it makes to people is amazing. Much as I enjoy coming to see Ivy, what really matters is the difference it can make to other people.

“It makes me feel good to give up a bit of my time when you see how important it is for other people.”

The scheme is designed to match older or vulnerable residents with volunteers who can help with the shopping, accompany them to social events, take them to health appointments, or just offer companionship.

Janine, who lives with her partner and two young children in Blurton, is studying social welfare law, policy and advice practice. She had intended to do a master’s course focusing on children, but now says the experience of volunteering may steer her towards working with older people.

“I feel like I’ve known Ivy for years – it’s just like visiting my own Nan, and I love listening to her reminiscences,” she said.

Janine spends a couple of hours with Ivy every Wednesday and plans to accompany her on walks and take her shopping when she has fully recovered from her fall. Janine also visits another lady as part of the Revival scheme.

Ivy, who worked as PA to the chief executive of Royal Doulton before she retired, added: “There are other poor souls who are worse off than me, but Janine visiting really takes away some of the loneliness and it gives meaning to the day. And I can trust her 100 per cent.”

Service Coordinator, Kerry Ball, said: “The Revival befriending service can make a real difference to people who may be vulnerable and lonely. We want to hear from anyone who can spare some time to help older or vulnerable people.

“Volunteers will be given training and support from Revival staff.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the befriending service should contact Kerry Ball by telephoning 01782 749202.

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Revival Home Improvement Agency. 308 London Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 5AB