This International Day of Friendship, Southampton City Council is supporting the importance of maintaining friendships during the COVID-19 pandemic to help tackle social isolation and loneliness.
International Day of Friendship is a day to appreciate and promote friendships from all backgrounds. Celebrated across the globe on 30 July 2020, the day aims to bridge the gaps between people regardless of race, language, religion or culture.
Southampton City Council has introduced many initiatives in partnership with commissioned providers to help residents to stay in touch during a time when they may not have been able to see their loved ones and friends.
Council tenant Lynda Walton (featured) from Holyrood, has been volunteering for council commissioned service Communicare, and recently, she has been a telephone befriender, providing contact and much-needed companionship for those who have been isolating at home.
Lynda said: “The regular telephone chats provides a real lifeline for people who live alone or can’t get out at the moment to feel connected and there’s a mutual benefit, as it’s been lovely for me to build relationships with the people that I’ve been speaking to over the past few months. I’ve been staying at home to shield during the lockdown, and as I’m usually really active and out every day, I’ve found it frustrating being stuck inside. Volunteering as a telephone befriender has been my way of helping and contributing to my local community.”
In addition, Southampton City Council has put the following schemes in place to support residents to stay in touch and maintain friendships:
- Southampton Day Services, which provides support for adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health made the decision to temporarily close their centres in March, to ensure the safety of attendees. As many of the usual attendees are isolating or shielding and unable to see friends or family members, the staff at the centres have been helping them to stay in touch by putting on online activity sessions via video call such as aerobics, music appreciation, yoga, cookery and quizzes.
- Holcroft House, a care home run by Southampton City Council which is registered to support residents with a diagnosis of dementia, purchased four new tablets so their residents could keep in touch with their families. Staff have been setting up the tablets to enable their residents to use Skype and WhatsApp. Families can also call through at any time to say hello and see their loved one. This two-way communication has been a lifeline for many families.
- Southampton Timebank supports people to trade their skills for someone else’s in order to get a job done. It is an exchange of time, an hour for an hour. Residents can volunteer their time however they like, doing whatever they enjoy – more recently the support given to others has included picking up and delivering shopping or medications when other individuals weren’t able to do it themselves, delivery of food parcels or simply acting as a ‘phone buddy’ and ringing people who are isolated for a chat to check they are well.
Councillor Lorna Fielker, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “There is a clear connection showing how our friendships improve our wellbeing and have significant health benefits. While COVID-19 has certainly introduced new challenges in our lives, many of us have needed to find new ways to keep in touch with our family and friends, as these relationships are now more important than ever. Many of us are lucky enough to have friendships that help us stay true to ourselves and I would recommend anyone who is looking for a friend to reach out to our commissioned partners, who can help you to get connected.”