‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’

After 27 years of serving isolated older people as a small charitable organisation, Community Network is planning to cease operations and transfer its activities to The Silver Line, a larger charity supporting similar individuals.

In 1991 Community Network launched its facilitated Friendship Groups combating loneliness, particularly in older people, by sponsoring regular telephone meetings with the teleconferencing operator ringing them to invite them to join the calls. The service started as BT plc wanted to use its “party line”[1] expertise to set up a social enterprise and help those isolated and lonely people across the UK.

The service developed over the years to linking people with other like -minded individuals. The current flagship project, Seafarers’ Link, funded by Seafarers UK, is a great example of how this works, joining ex-mariners together to chat about the past and the present with friends who really understand where they are coming from.

Besides Seafarers’ Link, Community Network is proud to have established a very popular service for ex RAF personnel, sponsored by the RAF Benevolent Fund. There are other telephone groups including a group for stroke victims and a prayer group.

Community Network is a small charity with big ambitions and wants more isolated people to be aware of the Telephone Friendship groups as the population ages and “nuclear” families become separated and isolated.  Loneliness affects all ages and cultures and Community Network sponsored research into the extent that university students also experience loneliness and isolation:


Community Network has decided to cease operations due to the present funding climate and, in June 2018, is transferring the Friendship Groups, along with the successful delivery model, to The Silver Line.  The Silver Line has experience of managing isolated and lonely groups and, with their 24/7 helpline receiving more than 1,500 daily calls, is perfectly placed to promote and deliver the service.

Ben Summerskill OBE, Chair of The Silver Line, said: “Everyone here is delighted to welcome Community Network’s friendship groups to the Silver Line family. Our Silver Circles already help alleviate loneliness for older people who are lonely and isolated. We’ll do everything we can as a charity to honour the trust that has been put in us not just by Community Network but by so many of its service users.”

Stephen Heard, Chair of Community Network, said: “In Seafarers Awareness Week, I am delighted to be announcing that our Friendship Groups are transferring to The Silver Line where I am confident they will continue to reduce the loneliness felt by so many older people. We are grateful to all the employees, volunteers, trustees, funders and referring agencies who have worked with Community Network since we were founded in 1989. Without your contribution, we would not have created the great legacy of services that make a real positive difference to the lives of the older people we support.”

[1] A party line (multiparty line, shared service line, party wire) is a local loop telephone circuit that is shared by multiple telephone service subscribers and was commonly used by BT plc in the early days of telephones.  The service ceased in the 1980’s.