WERS’ Remote Befriending – a response to Covid-19

“Having someone to talk to has helped me…a sense of belonging, something to look forward to, she is very carrying, thoughtful about things to do, asking about the girls.” WERS female befriendee and mum of two.

“I feel ‘fresh,’ feel ok, it’s doing good for my well-being; he is giving me support with my English. Having someone to talk to helps – someone who is concerned about my situation, it gives me confidence and hope.” WERS male befriendee.

In response to the Covid-19 Crisis, WERS is launching a remote befriending scheme.  An extension and adaption of our established befriending project, this will match trained volunteers with client referrals, to offer sensitive, one-to-one support over the telephone, via video calls and texts during this challenging time.

Before Covid-19, WERS befrienders were providing invaluable one-to-one support through friendship to refugees and asylum seekers experiencing social isolation in Newcastle. Befriending matches met up weekly or fortnightly, spending positive time together, exploring parts of Newcastle, helping them with basic issues (reading letters etc), practising their English, speaking on the phone between visits, and giving clients much needed time to take their mind off their case and the many issues they face. These befriending matches are now in regular phone and video call contact, still offering vital support, remotely.

With this crisis, we feel the need for befriending has only grown and intensified; all asylum seekers and refugees in Newcastle are now living with social distancing measures and can no longer access the face-to-face drop-ins and support sessions run by local agencies. Many will be experiencing intense social isolation and loneliness, whilst also facing ongoing anxieties around their case and their situation, as well as concerns and questions about the virus. Many will not have established social networks and friendships – many will have no-one to call on for social contact or emotional support.

Remote befrienders will put calls into clients throughout the week, to check in, for a chat, to talk through current Covid-19 developments which may affect them, to practise English a little, and to check and identify if they need any additional support during this time.  Requests for more complex casework support can be passed onto WERS team where support workers will pick up any issues. 

WERS’ face-to-face befriending scheme is a well-established project, with robust training and volunteer support in place, to enable volunteers to help clients in a way that is positive for all involved. Remote befriending extends the reach of this project, to support more people in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

We are currently recruiting remote befrienders from our current cohort of volunteers, who are ready trained and eager to start. We will also recruit new volunteers to meet demand.

If you are interested in becoming a remote befriender with WERS, we will be taking new applications in the future, please email us at volunteers@wers.org.uk to register your interest and request an application form.

If you are in contact with a client you would like to refer to the scheme, you can use the same email address volunteers@wers.org.uk to request a client referral form.

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