They say if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. The same logic can be applied to approaches to addressing loneliness.
In the UK, befriending services are big business for organisations looking to tackle the silent killer of confidence, the slasher of self-esteem and the hammerer of health and well-being; social isolation and loneliness. Charities across the UK are able to provide a menu of befriending options to those enquiring about support, as one size doesn’t fit all. Some people may opt for a one off visit or trip, others like face to face befriending, some prefer befriending by telephone and an increasing number of people like to meet up together in groups on the telephone.
If you take an isolated and/or lonely person out for a day, or involve them in a one off excursion you will likely create some pleasant memories. However, it is short term, quick fix solution to a deep-seated problem. The beauty of befriending is that it is an ongoing process focused specifically on the person being befriended. Done well, it gradually instills confidence and brings a positive sense of identity back to a person.
For some, befriending services are a big step towards feeling connected and part of a community. Telephone Communities take this one stage further, instantly giving people the chance to form multiple connections at once, yet still remain safe and comfortable in their own homes. They can rebuild social skills, repair identities and rekindle personal interests. It is true that this happens in one to one befriending too, but the difference with Telephone Communities is that there is more than one individual contributing to that person’s life and their sense of self. They are not a recipient of someone’s charity but rather an active agent in their own community.
Rather than giving someone a one off experience, befriending gives a person the skills to form new relationships and rediscover the identity that social isolation and loneliness has eroded. Telephone Communities go a step further, building a network of support for those unable to connect to others in their locality.
If one to one befriending is as effective as teaching a man to fish, then Telephone Communities are the universities of fishing.
Chris, Social Inclusion Manager