We are here to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action in Middlesbrough

Only the lonely

We have all heard about the impact of loneliness and social isolation; equating to the damaging effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We have reports and studies coming out of our ears.

We know it’s a huge issue but what are we doing about it?

Since October this year I started working on a relatively new service, Community Connect, as a development officer.

Community Connect is a person-centred service that does exactly what you would expect; supports people to access community-based services and activities through an integrated team of link workers.

One of my areas of work is to identify gaps in services and to support the sector to bridge these. The lack of befriending provision is one of the big issues that this service has identified. It’s strange to me that services tailored to reduce social isolation and loneliness are not available locally. In the few months I have been in this role I have seen the knock-on effect of services being decommissioned, oversubscribed and simply non-existent. This has put pressure on our service to meet the demands of local people seeking befriending by providing on going case work to build up people’s confidence to access social activities in their community.  

So what are we doing about it?

In answer to my first question (what are we doing about it?)… We recently held a workshop for the local voluntary sector to come together to look at the issues. The workshop saw a diverse group of people from a range of organisations including volunteers and managers as well as representation from Middlesbrough Council.

The workshop focused on the following:

  • Understanding what befriending is, highlighting the key principles and shared working definition.  
  • Highlighting the challenges currently facing befriending organisations and coming up with practical solutions to reduce these?
  • Thinking about the future landscape; the opportunities, challenges and hopes for befriending over the next ten years.

The session emphasised the enthusiasm and shared vision to be proactive in addressing the gap of befriending services by all participants and a working group has been formed to develop this area of work. The key theme highlighted was the need for partnership working to pool resource, volunteers and funding.

If you are interested in supporting the development of befriending services locally get in touch Kelly.baxter@mvdauk.org.uk  or call 07494313073

You can also do your bit over the festive period by pledging as little as 30 minutes with Good Morning Britain’s 1 Million Minutes Campaign to end loneliness. 

You can also contact Middlesbrough Volunteer Centre to offer your time, skills and drive to make a difference to your local community today by contacting 01642 803613 or emailing  volunteer.centre@mvdauk.org.uk

Kelly Baxter


Community Connect Development Officer