Connecting with more people isolated at home

Share this story

Female smiling at the camera holding a tray of tea cups

Providing care, companionship and social interaction to patients in their own homes is the role of our Caring Communities Service. As we roll out the service to wider teams within the Charity, we caught up with Chris Barker, Caring Communities Coordinator, who leads the scheme with her team of caring volunteers.  

What is the Caring Communities Service?

The service was founded in 2020 to provide companionship and social interaction to our patients in their own homes.  The first year was focused on patients visiting our Living Well Service. Now there is such demand the service has expanded for people using any of our services, including Patient and Family Support.

How did the pandemic change this?

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions we were unable to provide home visits and so we quickly adapted our services to support patients by telephone instead.

One patient shared their feelings about the value of the service to them during lockdown:

“Pat is a totally amazing person she really cheered me up…and I was able to talk about my feelings.

I was very low and she really gave me a lift and it was something to look forward to.

I really missed the Living Well sessions [at the Hospice] and this made up for it – I don’t feel forgotten about, the connection is still there”

Has this been successful?

Following a survey given to the patients or their carers, who had used the service, they reported that we were able to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness – which was particularly important to vulnerable people during a very challenging time.

It was reassuring to read all of the very positive comments such as:

 “It was enjoyable and something to really look forward to. I’d watch the clock and know Duncan was going to call in a few minutes”

How many people do you support and how?

Altogether, so far, we have supported over 130 people with more than 1475 chats. Home visits were reintroduced in February 2022 and the preference for a face-to-face meeting is increasing.

By February 2020 we had recruited 10 volunteers and during lockdown, with the increase in demand for the service, temporary volunteers offered further support. There are currently 12 volunteers with some additional recruits joining shortly.

What happens during and after the Caring Communities Scheme?

Our volunteers love listening and talking to our patients about any subject of their choice and will support them for eight weeks.

We are also able to signpost to other organisations, often using the Help at Hand App, and have successfully referred patients to the Fire Service, Dog Walking schemes, Local and government help schemes set up during the pandemic, Art by Post, Age UK Norfolk and more.

Where possible our volunteers are matched with patients in their own geographical area so they are aware of and can advise on any additional support available nearby, such as community café events and other social opportunities.

How is the service expanding?

The Caring Communities Scheme is now operating to support any patient known to our services who it is felt would benefit from the scheme.  With the demand for more home visits, further volunteers are being recruited to cover the demand across the County.

What is it like being a volunteer for the Caring Communities Scheme?

A volunteer will support a patient for eight sessions at a time, and many report that they have also benefitted from the interaction, enjoying getting to know people, hearing their stories and also learning from them. At the end of each session there is an option for the volunteer to take a break if they choose to.

We provide regular supervision for all our volunteers and offer them a self care space once a quarter called ’20 minute care space’.

Our volunteers are looking forward to more home visits although we will continue to provide telephone support for those patients who prefer it.

One patient added:

“We hit it off right from the start; we’re both chatter boxes. It was a very happy time. I hope the next person enjoys Anne’s time as much as I have. The way it works is very good; nice that Anne could come to the house”

You can read more about the experiences of a Caring Communities Volunteer here:

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Volunteer for our Charity please see our webpage or email or telephone 01223 675872, we would love to hear from you.