Who are Time to Talk Befriending?

Our purpose, our origins

Time to Talk Befriending (TTTB) was founded in 2013 in response to research undertaken with 94 older people living in East Brighton. Comments from residents (average age 85 years) who attended our consultation events included: “I thought I was invisible’’, “Before coming here, I hadn’t spoken to anyone in weeks”, “I just want to see a friendly face – for someone to visit me at home”. This research, which was born out of a church social action project, combined with everything we know about loneliness and the damaging it affect it can have on people’s wellbeing, was the fundamental reason TTTB came in to existence.

Since our initial consultation in 2012 we have gone on to organise at least one large consultation a year in parts of our city where there is a high concentration of single older people households (using Age UK heat maps and local authority data). Over 280 older residents have attended and fed back their views driving our agenda on issues of concern and interest to them. Our aim is to undertake a consultation event in Worthing in 2020 as part of our Engage and Connect Befriending project to further identify the gaps and needs in the area.

As a Charity, we activate, recruit, induct and train community volunteers aged 16+ and match them to our older members. We carefully assess our members at the referral stage so that the matches can share interests, laughter and time together on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Most of our volunteers are aged between 20-55 years. The average age of our scheme members is 82. Our scheme members are matched with a wide range of community volunteers including young Mum’s and their children, young professionals, volunteers and their dog, retirees and the list goes on! In addition we train and support year-long placements for sixth form students from a local College who help to provide one to one befriending, events, group befriending and life story work. In 2019 there are 160 sixth-formers participating in this community based programme. In addition we work partnership with local churches, colleges, schools and a pre-schools weekly and monthly group befriending meet-ups for our older members. Facilitating intergenerational befriending is one of our core aims (research from Age UK states that evidence shows this type of befriending often has more positive impact than peer to peer befriending).

We have gone on to co-provide regular peer group befriending too so our older members can leave their homes and connect for conversation and build friendships with each other, hosted by our trained sixth-form pupil volunteers and in partnership with local Churches. This has been so successful; we have recently set up two more peer befriending groups in another areas of need in the city which is growing quickly (97 scheme members attend regularly and the numbers are  growing). Offering transport and reminders is an essential part of this logistical work but it has a huge impact (captured in our annual face to face reviews).

From the offset we extended our befriending provision to include signposting. For example; in 2018 we made 283 onward referrals for our members to 51 local or specialist organisations, tapping them into what exists already in their local communities (e.g. welfare benefit visits in the home, GP Falls Service, social clubs). In summer 2019 we piloted our first ‘’holidays at home’’ event for our older members who do not have the income, have limited mobility or no one to go on holiday with; 76 of our members came and 22 of our volunteers and had a great time ‘’on a cruise’’. Our intergenerational work is developing too: for example; a partnership with a Forest School bringing together our older members with their pre-schoolers and families to learn together in the outdoors on our joint project: ‘’Little Acorns meet Great Oaks’. This is receiving hugely positive feedback from all participants involved and follows on from a pilot we trialled last summer – we want it to become a core part of our offer of services as it motivates our members to leave their homes and develops wellbeing in nature for our members who spend a lot of time inside.

Our headquarters are based in Brighton, Hove and we were awarded ‘Best Small Charity of the Year’ by our regional newspaper, The Argus in 2016 for our work across the City. In addition we were awarded the accolade of ‘Best partnership and Collaboration’ by our Community Voluntary Sector body in October 2016. In 2017 we literally doubled in size and in 2017-2018 we undertook a pilot in neighbouring Worthing. In 2019 we are working towards obtaining ‘Approved Befriending Provider’ status via the national organisation Befriending Networks of which we are members. In 2019 we are also fully launching our service in Worthing thanks to National Lottery Funding. As a Charity we have grown steadily since it’s foundation but we are now ready to significantly expand and help more older people who experience loneliness caused by social isolation. Our long term aim is to provide an effective model for replication that can be utilised in other areas of high need across the Sussex County (and beyond!).

Older people: their voice and feedback

We have designed a scheme which is ‘’member based’’. We do not refer to our members as ‘’clients’’ or ‘’end-users’’. We want to foster a crucial sense of belonging. Nearly all our members live alone and have no friends or family that regularly visit them.

In 2012 we carried out informal social action research supported by two local Brighton churches, University of Sussex social work faculty, the national LifeLines scheme and Age UK Brighton and Hove. We knew many older residents lived locally but were rarely seen out. 96 vulnerable older residents completed our wide-ranging needs analysis questionnaire. Overwhelmingly, feedback was for friendship and human connection. Typical examples being: “Thank you so much for bringing us together. I didn’t think people cared” (data is documented on our website under ”Research”). This formed the origins of Time to Talk Befriending.

We identify concentrations of isolated older people using Age UK Heat Maps and local authority data to reach isolated older people. 89% of our sampled member review questionnaires state that our befriending model has had a really positive or positive impact on their lives, Project Statistics 2017.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness published its findings in December 2017 and pulled together the evidence base from 13 specialist national organisations (including Silver Line, Independent Age and Age UK). We know from this report that:

  • More than 1 in 3 people aged 75+ say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control
  • For 3.6 million people aged 65+ television is the main form of company
  • Weak social connection is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

We operate locally in Brighton, Hove, Worthing and rural fringes. We are active members of a Brighton and Hove Befriending Coalition. The Founder and CEO of the Charity is also the South Coast Regional Coordinator for the National Linking Lives UK Charity which enables Churches to provide befriending within their local community.