Thursday, 11 August 2016

Powys Befrienders - it’s given me back my life!

“Individuals who are socially isolated are between two and five times more likely than those who have strong social links to die prematurely.” 

Michael Marmot (2010) – Fair Society, Healthy Lives.

Last year we heard from the then Project Co-ordinator, Rachael Beech, about this really successful lottery funded befriending project. She told us it is "so much more than a cuppa and a chat".

Rachael has recently moved on to work with Action for Hearing Loss in Powys, and Befrienders’ colleague Jill Ball has taken over the reins, in this, the fifth year of the project. It seemed like a good time to catch up with progress, particularly as the service has developed to meet the changing needs of clients. As well as 1:1 support Powys Befrienders now holds regular group meetings and occasional days out.

First of all Jill gives us some of the project basics:

Powys Befrienders is a five year Big Lottery funded project delivered by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO). The service currently provides a 1:1 and Group Befriending service Powys–wide, delivered by volunteers and paid staff to people over the age of 50. The aim is to support them to maintain and improve their independence and wellbeing. The service is quality assured having met the Quality in Befriending (QIB) quality standards in all 9 areas – it is the first befriending project in Wales to have achieved this prestigious quality assurance standard.

Powys Befrienders’ interventions produce measurable improvements, evidenced by ‘Outcome Star’ data, in the following areas:-
  • Optimising independence.
  • Maximising wellbeing through choice and control.
  • Focusing on prevention.
The service has Outreach Officers across the county who liaise with other health professionals to deliver the Befriending Groups and 1:1 opportunities. The criteria for becoming a client of the befriending service are:

You live in Powys, you are over the age of 50 and that you are isolated or lonely. People can self-refer into the service or be referred by a friend, family member or health professional.

Trained volunteers who also have a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check are matched to clients and do a whole variety of activities with them. The activity is dictated by the client and some examples are swimming, singing, playing dominos, chess, shopping, walking, going to the theatre, lunch out, and dog walking.

The Group Facilitator for North Powys – Lesley Austen, tells us how the project has evolved:

Well, the project has evolved in the North in quite a haphazard way really! We seemed to have either clients in an area or volunteers - never both in the same place to make one-to-one matches.

The groups mostly started quite small, bringing together sometimes just 2 or 3 people (and occasionally just me and a client!) in a mutually convenient place - usually a cafe (saving the cost of venues and I don't have to make the tea!). Plus there is the added benefit of the opportunity to bump into old friends and neighbours.

They are all informal social groups, dotted around North Powys to suit people's needs, meeting for teas, coffees, lunches and occasional days out. Nobody is restricted to a particular group just because they live in the area, many attend 2 or 3 groups and a few attend everything that's going on! We help with transport as much as we can and would love more volunteer drivers who could help us out with this (hint hint!).

Currently there are two weekly lunch clubs, one in Newtown and one in Llandrinio, and a peripatetic lunch "club" that eats its way round Powys 2 or 3 times a month at various pubs and restaurants. Coffee / tea groups are held in Newtown, Guilsfield, Llansantffraid, Llanfyllin and Llanfair Caereinion monthly or twice a month.

Anyone over 50 who is feeling the need for company and wants to get out and about is welcome and we have people of all abilities and disabilities attending our groups on a regular basis. Some come every week, others we only see about once a month.

We also arrange occasional days out when people can try something a little different. One of our clients had been on a canal boat before so suggested it as a group activity. On 10 June we took to the waters of the beautiful Montgomery Canal with the Heulwen Trust (Heulwen is Welsh for sunshine). Robin, our boatman, piloted a fully accessible 70 foot narrow boat from the Trust’s base at Welshpool to Ardleen. We enjoyed a picnic lunch from a local café and a strawberry tea on our trip and everyone had a lovely day, including guide dog Quince and his owner Gwyn.

About Powys Befrienders' clients

M was widowed last year and was very lonely, with not many friends in the area - he is fit and active and has his own transport so is seen at almost all our activities. He has also met people from other clubs and groups and joins in with their activities too: "I've always got something to look forward to now, just a problem fitting it all in or deciding what to do next!"

D has complex health needs which have resulted in depression to the point she had not been out socially for over 6 years. At first very reluctant and reserved, she is now up for anything on offer, encouraging others to join in and despite her continuing health issues and poor mobility is no longer dependant on medication for depression: "Befrienders has given me back my life."

Many thanks to Jill and Lesley for updating us about this amazing project.

If you would like to become a volunteer for Powys Befrienders and could give up 2-3 hours per week please call 01597 822191 and ask for a member of the Befrienders’ team. Volunteers may do telephone befriending, visits to clients and group activities, or may just wish to transport clients to activities. Volunteers are refunded for any expenditure they incur.

If you wish to become a client of the service call the team now on 01597 822191.


  1. Wonderful! Is this offered in South Powys please?

  2. Yes, contact details as above - look forward to hearing from you 😀