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Food Train expands Phone Friends to tackle loneliness in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire

Increased support for older people in region amid concerns about increased social isolation as a result of Covid-19 pandemic

Jo Dallas who volunteers for The Food Train. Jo calls a core group of seven people who live on their own or who feel isolated. The talking is something Food Train offer as well as help with shopping. Often Jo and the people she calls will talk about food and what they are cooking. Jo regularly talks to a retired home economics teacher and they share tips for making scones.

A scheme tackling loneliness among older people is being expanded to reach more in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire.

Food Train has opened its Phone Friends service to the general public after work to support its members during the pandemic highlighted the strong need for it.

It connects an older person with a volunteer who regularly phones them for a chat – giving them someone with whom they can share how they are and enjoy a laugh.

Food Train is best known in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire for its shopping services, which have faced sustained high demand to deliver groceries to the homes of over-65s since Covid-19 took hold.

Morna O’May, who is overseeing Food Train’s Phone Friends service, said: “Covid has had a huge impact on older people who have had to shield and isolate. Because of the length of time this is going on for, they are losing confidence in being able to get back out and about again in public.

“It is creating a situation where people who had a connection to their community are losing that and those who were already isolated are feeling it even more keenly.

“The Phone Friend service is an ideal way to make connections again from the safe environment of your own home.”

Food Train first opened its Phone Friends to members after volunteers made check-in calls to older people during lockdown – to ensure people were well and had all they needed – when many of its members were unable to enjoy the social side of shopping deliveries or days out organised by the charity.

That service to members across the country has seen volunteers make 1,550 calls – chatting to older people for 28,000 minutes.

The response to it has been so positive that the service – which costs £5 per month to join – is being made available to non-members too. Phone calls can be weekly, fortnightly or less often if people wish.

Morna added: “Phone Friends allows a friendship to develop without having to involve any travelling or visiting which suits many older people and volunteers.

“We have volunteers vetted, trained and ready to be matched.”

For more information about Phone Friends, call 0800 048 9945 or email phonefriends@foodtrainconnects.org.uk.

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