Isolating but not isolated: how volunteer groups in Chorley are making a difference

Vulnerable Chorley residents and those in the borough struggling to cope with the magnitude of the new coronavirus lockdown restrictions are being reassured that they are not alone as the crisis continues.

By Paul Faulkner
Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 1:29 pm

Several volunteer groups in the district have swung into action to ensure that people have someone to talk to – as well as any practical help that they may need.

Chorley Buddies is a new service offering a 12-hour-a-day phoneline which locals can call if they want a chat.

“There is a lot of good stuff going on already in the community – neighbours looking after neighbours and families rallying around each other,” said Paul McBeth, who came up with the concept.

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“But we want to be there for people who are not so well-connected to others – or even just those who don’t want to unburden themselves to people who they are close to.

“We’re not trained counsellors and won’t be offering medical or financial advice – but we can talk for as long as somebody needs.”

The ten volunteers who will be manning the lines have been trained to signpost callers to more specialist services if needs be – including a Shopping Buddies facility available in the borough for those who need food or medicines collecting.

Chorley Buddies has obtained professional call-handling software, which Paul says might give people the impression that they are phoning a call centre.

“Actually, all the volunteers will be at their homes somewhere in Chorley. But people can call a single number and be put through to someone who is free.”

The volunteers have received safeguarding training to identify inappropriate calls and those which may require mental health intervention.

The service is now live and anybody wanting to talk should call 01257 542367 between 9am and 9pm. An answerphone service is available at all other times.

Meanwhile, Friends for You, a Chorley befriending service whose whole ethos has always been about face-to-face contact with the isolated, has now found itself having to adapt to rapidly changing times.

The organisation’s volunteers usually pay regular visits to around 80 people who would otherwise have little contact with the outside world. However, with that option no longer available, the group is now calling people in order to keep in touch.

And the founder of the organisation, Marjorie Hayward, says that by temporarily having to cut down on travel time, Friends for You is able to help more people than are currently on its books.

“Most of the people we see are totally on their own. As well as making calls to them at the moment, we are also offering to take shopping around and leave it on the doorstep – with protocols in place about how to handle money so that nobody is transferring anything.

“We want to help keep people going mentally and physically and I think everybody has got to step up at a time like this.

“I feel that we are just scratching the surface of the problem and we do have more capacity, having just taken on extra volunteers. So if people know of anybody who could do with our help – even if it’s for their own grandparent or other relative who they can’t visit at the moment – please let us know about them.”

Friends for You can be contacted via its Facebook page or by emailing [email protected]