Helpline braced for a busy festive period

Support network: From left, Beth Sykes, founder of Just Good friends, Esther Rantzen, Silver Line user Brenda Halliday and Sophie Andrew, chief executive of Silver Line at the launch of Silver Line

Support network: From left, Beth Sykes, founder of Just Good friends, Esther Rantzen, Silver Line user Brenda Halliday and Sophie Andrew, chief executive of Silver Line at the launch of Silver Line

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Volunteers at a call centre near Preston are bracing themselves for an avalanche of winter calls from lonely older people.

The Silver Line – a free, confidential 24 hour helpline, operates around-the-clock in Wesham, to provide information and support to isolated elderly people.

Calls: Esther Rantzen

Calls: Esther Rantzen

It already receives an average of 1,200 calls a day, but this month recorded its busiest single day since it opened two years ago with a staggering 1,500 calls from older folk across the UK.

Founded by celebrity Dame Esther Rantzen, it offers friendship and advice, and signposts callers to other resources in their community.

While many older people in Lancashire will have been able to share the festive period with their families and friends, others are not as lucky and view the charity as a lifeline.

Volunteers offer friendship, information and advice to callers aged 60 and over.

As well as taking calls they phone people who request a call in December because they are alone and know they might not speak to anyone else over 
the holiday.

Today a spokesman said staff in the county expect to handle more than twice the usual number of calls over the days around Christmas.

Dame Esther Rantzen DBE, founder of The Silver Line said: “Like many of our Silver Line callers, I know what loneliness feels like - and Christmas is especially difficult if you are on your own. When 
my late husband Desmond Wilcox died, I tried to make our family Christmas as 
joyous as it had always been, but it was impossible.

“In the words of one of our callers, Christmas Day became ‘just another day I had to get through’. We can make this the start of a much happier New Year.”

Sophie Andrews, CEO, added: “Since our launch two years ago, our 24/7 year-round helpline has received 680,000 calls, and this is growing exponentially.

“On Christmas Day, many older people got a call from their Silver Line Friend and for the vast majority that will be the only person they speak to that day

“Our callers are among the hardest to reach older people – for example, those who are confined to their homes through physical or mental disability, or caring for another.

“Others have found themselves isolated after losing a partner. For these 
people, the phone can be a lifeline.

“But we also know there are thousands, even millions more that we haven’t yet reached.

“That’s why we are asking more people to help and volunteer their time.”

For support call the Silver Line Helpline on 0800 4 70 80 90.