A new befriending and support service has been formed for the Skye and Lochalsh area.
Skye and Lochalsh Neighbours and Friends will recruit volunteer befrienders in order to deliver its service from October.
The Skye and Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations has joined forced with Highland Hospice to create the service, which will work closely with the Hospice's existing "Helping Hands" initiative.
Jo Ford, Senior Officer for Skye & Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations (SLCVO) explained: “Over the past couple of years an increasing number of residents have been noting the number of lonely or isolated people in our community. Tradesmen, police and others are telling us that there are many people in Skye and Lochalsh in need of company and who would benefit from befriending.”
She continued, “There are some drop-in cafes and social events which run locally, but these are not accessible or appropriate to everyone. When we first spoke to Highland Hospice a year ago, we looked at a number of groups they could work with. However, it became clear that, with the Hospice providing the foundation for a permanent service, SLCVO should take this on – especially as we have the contacts for volunteers and other local organisations needed to develop this project.”
Acting Inspector Bruce Crawford from Portree Police Station agreed with Jo, and stated: “The stunning nature of the Skye and Lochalsh landscape that draws many thousands of visitors is often the very thing that leads to isolation and loneliness amongst some residents. With 80% of calls attended by local officers being non-criminal it is clear that vulnerability plays a large part in much of the work being carried out by Police Scotland. A service aimed at supporting those in need of friendship and company will undoubtedly complement the work already being undertaken by the Police and partner agencies and help to improve the quality of life of those in need of additional support and human interaction”
NHS Community Development Officer Jean Macrae is also backing the project through in a number of ways, with one Kyle GP Surgery already having offered their waiting room as an opportunity to recruit volunteers.
Susan Smith, Helping Hands Service Manager, explained: “When we first set up the ‘Helping Hands’ service in Ross-shire it was available to clients who have palliative care needs. Now, having built a strong foundation, we are delivering this service in a broader sense and are delighted to work with organisations such as SLCVO to to do this locally. The Skye and Lochalsh service will be appropriate for anyone in the community aged over 18 who could do with some company, whether or not they have additional palliative care requirements.”
SLCVO will have a tent at the Skye Agricultural Show, King George V Field, Portree, on 5th August, where people can come to discuss volunteering and receive more information. Full training will be provided by Highland Hospice at some point in September.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the befriending service, referral can be made through a variety of health and care professionals. Further details are available from the SLCVO office on 01478 612921.
Jo Ford continued: “We are hoping that this initiative will heighten awareness in our community that some people are lonely. Those who are isolated are not always those who live remotely. As the title of our new service suggests, we are appealing to everyone to be mindful towards friends, neighbours or relatives who could do with some company. As little as an hour of your time could really brighten someone’s day.”
For information on referral to the service or how to become a volunteer befriender, please contact Jo Ford on 01478 612 921.
Above: Samantha-Jo McArthur, Volunteer & Administration Development Officer at Skye and Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations meeting with Susan Smith, Helping Hands Service Manager during a visit to Highland Hospice as part of the partnership development.