Volunteering: how it works
How it works
We firmly believe no one should have no one. Our volunteer befrienders help us tackle the huge problem that is loneliness and social isolation. B:friend reconnects people aged 65 and above with their community and the people in it.
Our wonderful volunteers are paired with an older neighbour who may benefit from a little more company. It may be that they don’t get out as much as they used to due to health, mobility, bereavement, loss of confidence. It could be that they still get out but don’t get opportunities for meaningful connection and conversation. B:friend is a charity that supports the new friendship of a volunteer and older neighbour. We see the difference that company and friendship makes and it can be huge.
You will change someone’s life. You are taking a step that not everybody does – you are giving something of yourself to help a stranger and that is awesome! Volunteering is very rewarding but friendship is a two-way street, you will gain a huge amount from this.
At b:friend we are flexible and responsive, we try to accommodate volunteer needs wherever possible. You will be supported by a volunteer coordinator. You will be valued – what you are doing is brilliant and has such meaning.
What we need from you:
We ask you to visit an isolated older neighbour in their home for an hour once a week, to have a chat and a cup of tea.
No experience is needed; you will be provided with all the necessary induction material and will be supported by a dedicated volunteer coordinator. Your volunteer coordinator will conduct an induction interview with you and will be your first point of contact with the charity. We are looking for people with the following attributes:
- Friendly, empathetic, good listener
- Fluency in English
- Completion of a DBS check within 2 weeks of signing up – Free for our volunteers, paid by b:friend
- Time – min. 6 months commitment
- Responsible – let us know if you have any concerns about your older neighbour, and please keep in touch with your volunteer coordinator
How it works – the nitty gritty
- Complete our online form
- You will receive an email from us with a link to complete your DBS check
- Your volunteer coordinator will be in touch to arrange a 30 minute video call to meet and have a chat about all things befriending.
- Once your DBS check is clear you can be paired!
- The first time you visit your older neighbour in person you will be accompanied by your volunteer coordinator. After that you arrange your weekly visits.
- Your volunteer coordinator will check in with you every so often but always feel free to contact us anytime
We receive the majority of our referrals through health and social care professionals. Sometimes older neighbour’s family members may refer to us and older neighbours sometimes refer themselves. Anyone can refer in to us as long as they have the consent of the older neighbour.
Some people have no family at all. Some have family who don’t live close by. Some have family who live close by but work a lot or have very busy lives. Loneliness is subjective – the amount of company a person has isn’t always a good indicator of how lonely they feel. We have always found the families of our older neighbours to be very welcoming of our volunteers and really appreciative of the time the volunteers give.
We encourage you to do whatever works best for the two of you in your new friendship. It can be set or flexible from week to week.
Like any other person, our older neighbours may sometimes forget they have made arrangements or something may come up, so our first piece of advice is not to panic! If you keep trying and still can’t contact them, please phone your volunteer coordinator. If you can’t make contact, we advise you to phone the main charity line 07523 698530 (9am-5pm M-F). If it is outside of office hours and you are very concerned, we advise you to phone the non-emergency police line on 101, who can do a safe and well check.
We never give the older neighbour your phone number, we leave this for you to do if and when you wish to.
They can, but we ask that you are always present
Yes, if you would like to but this is not something we ask of our volunteers. Some of our Older Neighbours are unable to leave their homes but if you are paired with someone who can, and you are happy to then there is no reason you can’t go out together. If you are using your car, we advise you to inform your insurance company that you volunteer for a charity and sometimes use your car to transport your older neighbour.
You’re doing a wonderful thing for your older neighbour as a befriender, and they are likely to feel very grateful. However, please don’t accept any money or gifts of high monetary value from them. This is to protect both you and the older neighbour. If your neighbour offers you anything of high value, please let your volunteer coordinator know.
You can if you wish to, but this is not something we ask of you. If you wish to buy them a gift, we advise this is something small.
Yes. We ask for a minimum of one hour, but if you would like to phone/visit more than this, you can.
We advise to befriend one person to begin with until you are familiar with befriending and volunteering. If you wish to befriend a second person, contact your volunteer coordinator, and they will have a chat with you.
One hour a week.
It is important to us that you enjoy this experience so we want to match you with the right person. When you first meet your volunteer coordinator they will ask you a few questions about the person you may wish to volunteer for to make sure your time spent volunteering is enjoyable.
You will have a one-to-one meeting with a volunteer coordinator that lasts around half an hour. In this time they will tell you all about the charity and how we work. You will be sent a volunteer handbook and the b:friend Safeguarding and Data Protection & Privacy Policies.
We understand people may need to miss a week or two if you are away or unwell. Please let your older neighbour know and then pick back up the following week
Head to our volunteer page and fill in the online form. You will receive a welcome email with a link to complete your DBS check. Please check your junk folder too. Once you have done this a volunteer coordinator will be in touch to arrange a meeting. Once your DBS check is clear, you can be paired up. The time for this varies depending on the number of older neighbours in the area in which you wish to volunteer. If there are older neighbours in your area, we are confident you will be paired up quickly.
All volunteers have an enhanced DBS check and meet with a volunteer coordinator to ensure they are people we wish to represent the charity. We emphasise the importance of confidentiality and safeguarding in volunteer training.
As our older neighbours are aged over 65, we do not require them to complete a DBS check with us. However, we do ask referrers to disclose as much information as possible to protect our volunteers.
Please tell your volunteer coordinator as soon as possible.
Your volunteer coordinator will go to the older neighbour’s house 30 minutes before you to ensure a member of the charity is there before you arrive. If the visit is going well, your volunteer coordinator will leave 30 minutes after you arrive, leaving the two of you alone for your final 30 minutes. This gives you both the chance to have a proper chat. If you are happy to be paired with that older neighbour you are then able to arrange your next visit.
Yes – we love our volunteers getting together, making their own connections and having opportunities to speak with other volunteers. We have a Facebook chat group for all active volunteers, but we also run volunteer socials in all of the areas we work. This is a chance to have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch-up with members of the team and other volunteers doing the same thing as you.
Live outside of our areas?
We still need you as a volunteer!
The definition of community is no longer geographically bound. If you live outside of the areas b:friend currently works in, there are still plenty of ways to get involved, including phone volunteering. If we won’t be able to pair you with an older neighbour for face-to-face visits due to your location, we can match you with someone as a phone befriender. We highly value the time and efforts of our phone befrienders, and thanks to them we can provide support for even more isolated older members of the community.
Other volunteering opportunities
There are many ways to support b:friend. We have one-off, flexible and regular volunteering and fundraising opportunities:
Can you support our friendly groups? Be part of our community and help as a Social Club volunteer.
Do you have a special hobby or skill? Share your talent with our older neighbours at one of our Social Clubs
Host or take part in a fundraising event! Organise a bake sale, karaoke or boardgame night, or run a charity 5k. Have fun & raise money for a good cause.
Are you a passionate coder or software developer? Help us improve our online platforms.
Help us measure the impact of our befriending projects by completing surveys with our older neighbours.
Apply to volunteer now!
What our volunteers have to say
Has it been 6 months already? Time has flown! It doesn't seem like two minutes. He [my older neighbour] is a part of my life now, and I genuinely look forward to seeing him every weekend. We both get on really well, and it's a pleasure getting to know him and call him my friend
Shaunagh, volunteer befriender
My older neighbour is in her 80s, but it's like talking to one of my mates who's my age. She's amazing, I love her.
Staceyleigh, volunteer befriender
I feel like we have known each other for years. Our friendship is so special.
Sam, volunteer befriender
Norah has not only given me amazing friendship these past few months but has shared wisdom, knowledge and compassion in such a unique way. I'm really lucky to have become friends with Norah.
Harvir, volunteer befriender
Befriending Heather has been such a valuable experience. Learning about her life and how she sees the world has taught me valuable lessons that I will carry with me in the future. I have made a friend in a very unexpected place, and I’m very grateful for the weekly biscuits we share. I have so much love for Heather, and for b:friend for bringing us together.