Location: Nationwide

About: The Silver Line is the only 24-hours-a-day free and confidential helpline which offers information, friendship and advice to older people. The Silver Line also offers telephone and letter based befriending by volunteers known as ‘Silver Line Friends’.

Calls to the helpline are answered by professional advisers who are specially trained and available to answer questions, to refer older people to sources of specialist advice, or to simply have a chat.

The majority of older people call in the evenings, at night and weekends for company when other services may not be available, particularly around times of transition – such as following a bereavement. Whilst the Silver Line is happy to speak to people over the phone for as long as they want, they also explore people’s interest in getting involved with face-to-face social opportunities. Older people who want regular conversations with the same person are invited to be matched to a volunteer, a ‘Silver Line Friend’. While waiting for a match they receive a regular ‘wellbeing call’ from helpline staff to check how things are and have a chat. Once matched they receive a weekly phone call, at an agreed time, to build up a friendship.

The Silver Line also facilitates ‘Silver Circles’ which are telephone groups, facilitated by a volunteer, and offers befriending by email and letter. ‘Silver Letters’ are popular with older people with hearing loss.

The Charity has forged collaborative relationships with other voluntary sector agencies and offers signposting to Age UK, the University of the Third Age and Contact the Elderly, among others, to support face-to-face connections in local communities. The Silver Line also seeks to encourage people who receive calls from the ‘friends’ scheme to become volunteers themselves, or to get involved with Silver Circles, as a way of helping people to find a new sense of purpose and widen their social circles.

The Silver Line is funded by a range of trusts and foundations including the Big Lottery Fund, as well as corporate partners including BT. A pilot phase of the helpline was evaluated by the Centre for Social Justice, which reported that ‘in the many cases where loneliness had been a driver in them calling or asking for a friend, people referred to how it had enabled them to become reconnected, whether to other services or simply to another person’. An ongoing evaluation is underway in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, and will produce quantitative as well as qualitative evidence of impact.

Participant Quote:

“It’s very difficult when you haven’t got children and you are not working… you are lost… I am now involved with a Silver Circle… We chat to one another, we know one another. They are my friends… You give us confidence to go forth… I am now going to be a facilitator. I’m going to have my own [Circle] and, if I’m allowed, I’ll take over the place.”

Who: Age UK Exeter

The Silver Line
Minerva House
42 Wigmore Street
London, W1U 2RY

Tel: 020 7224 2020

Web: www.thesilverline.org.uk/