SAND working in partnership with:

SAND has worked with AgeUK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin and AgeUK Herefordshire & Worcestershire to support them both to develop their specific tele-friending service – called REACH.

Reach is a service providing a free, regular telephone call, suitable for individuals who:

  • Identify as LGBT+ or care for an individual who identifies as LGBT+
  • Are isolated or feeling lonely
  • Have access to a landline or mobile telephone
  • Would benefit from calls on a weekly basis, or on a basis as agreed between both the Supported and their Supporter

AgeUK STW and SAND have now trained a group of volunteers (called Supporters).

A ‘Supporter’ is the volunteer who makes the call providing companionship and support, aiming to reduce a person’s loneliness and isolation.

Find out more about the service – whether you would like to receive a call or are interested in volunteering:

with AgeUK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin 01743 233 788

or with AgeUK Herefordshire & Worcestershire 0800 008 6077

The LGBT+ community is recognised as a marginalised group.
All organisations could be promoting and delivering their services in a way which is most likely to remove that margin.

A bit of background to REACH

The subtleties and complexities of ageing as an LGBT+ person can add a layer to the general anxieties of ageing experienced by many. Concerns such as lack of independence, deteriorating health, losing home, losing faculties, isolation, losing a partner, losing dignity and privacy may be exacerbated by expected and experienced discrimination, physical violence and abuse because of sexual identity, negative experience of authority/professionals, learned deception, secret/forbidden lives and more.

In May 2020, The LGBT Foundation published Hidden Figures: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on LGBT Communities – the largest and most substantive research of its kind in the UK. This research has uncovered some of the wide-ranging and profound effects the pandemic has had on the lives of LGBT+ people in areas such as mental health; isolation; substance misuse; eating disorders; living in unsafe environments; financial impact; homelessness; access to healthcare and support.

In the autumn of 2020, the (national) LGBT+ Switchboard reported a 24% increase in the numbers of people contacting their service and a 42% increase in calls from transgender or non-conforming individuals.

In 2020-21, with help from Covid-19 Emergency Response funding from Shropshire Council, matched with our EMBRACE project, SAND was able to establish a relationship with Age UK Herefordshire & Worcestershire, alongside our existing partner AgeUK Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, to develop and pilot a cross-county tele-friending service specifically for older and old LGBT+ people.

The project involved reviewing existing volunteer induction, training and handbooks; developing specific volunteer training and piloting this with staff.

An advantage of cross-county working in rural areas like ours, is that individuals who may fear identification within their own local community can link with someone who is not part of that community and is less likely to have a connection to it.

Footnote: This REACH Project was initially instigated and driven by our colleague Claire Duffield Townsend and we would like to ensure that she has enduring credit for it