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Distant Companions will offer friendly voice during coronavirus crisis

Published on Monday, May 18, 2020

An older woman standing at a window. Stock photo

A DEDICATED befriending service has been launched in Leicester to help people who are feeling lonely or isolated.

Distant Companions has been set up by the city council to help reduce isolation by providing regular phone calls from a companion who will listen, help and just have a regular weekly chat with someone.

The service will run alongside Distant Socialising, another recent initiative which supports people to try out different hobbies, learn something new or simply talk to someone to help feel more connected with their community at this isolating time.

Someone using the socialising service might only contact the service once, whereas Distant Companions will offer regular contact from a volunteer who has been matched with a person in need of support, so that they can develop a friendly relationship.

Both services are being run by Leicester Ageing Together on behalf of the council, making it easy for people to be referred from one service to the other according to their needs.

Cllr Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor responsible for public health, said: “This week (18-24 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we know that loneliness and isolation can have a very negative effect on your mental health.

“This is why we wanted to highlight the extra services we have established to help people during the coronavirus crisis. The message is – it’s okay not to be okay, and there is help available for you, however you’re feeling.

“It might be that you’ve never had an issue with your mental health before. The situation we are all in could lead you to feel anxious and lonely for the first time – and it’s normal to feel this way.

“We identified a need for a befriending service to run alongside the work we’re doing to help people keep socialising, which is why we have set up Distant Companions. Our companions will be able to encourage people to take part in other social and creative opportunities through Distant Socialising, and they will have access to a wide range of information on other sources of help to keep some of our most vulnerable members of society safe and well at this difficult time. No-one needs to go through this crisis alone.”

People can be referred to Distant Companions from other services and helplines running in the city, or they can call directly on 0116 249 8851. The helpline is available Monday to Friday, from 9am-12pm and from 1.30pm-4pm.

For advice on health and wellbeing, visit www.leicester.gov.uk/coronavirus and click on the Mental Wellbeing link.

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