About: Call in Time is a national telephone befriending service provided by Age UK, based on a corporate volunteering model. Organisations that sign up to Call in Time allow their staff to volunteer, usually during working hours, for half-an-hour a week to befriend an older person. Age UK recognise that most older people would prefer to receive a face-to-face befriending service, so Call in Time tends to serve clients in areas where no face-to-face services are available due to lack of funding, or difficulties recruiting volunteers. Because Call in Time is delivered over the telephone, with the support of employers, Age UK is able to deliver a cost effective service and reports few problems attracting volunteers.
The scheme accepts self-referrals and receives referrals from a wide range of agencies. Upon referral individuals are contacted by the central Call in Time team who assess their suitability and offer a brief ‘good day’ call once or twice a week for a period of around six to eight weeks. These calls allow staff to find out more about the individual, so that they can be appropriately matched to a befriender. This is also an opportunity to identify individuals for whom the scheme may not be suitable (due to mental health or other issues), and refer them to a more appropriate service.
Once referred to a volunteer, individuals receive a weekly call for friendship and chat. Befrienders are trained to be able to identify and refer any emerging issues or concerns. They have access to a live email ‘alert’ system, through which they can flag any urgent issues to the Call in Time team who ensure an appropriate response. The scheme is largely funded by its corporate partners who pay for their staff to be part of the scheme on a per-head basis. This funding gives them a complete package of support including training and volunteer matching.
An independent evaluation of the pilot phase of the project found that ‘perceived wellbeing and mood improved and activity levels increased among telephone befriending service recipients, including those suffering from chronic depression. Many reported a reduction in loneliness.
“I was very, very, very lonely and very, very, very sad…..I couldn’t tell you how I felt numb. I really didn’t have any feelings. That’s what frightened me in a way. …The Call in Time service has helped me dramatically, because I know that the call is coming. If I’m upset I’ve got someone to talk to me, and if I’m happy I’ve got someone to share that with.”
Who: Age UK and participating employers
A Call in Time
1-6 Tavistock Square
London, WC1H 9NA
Tel: 0800 169 6565