Could you be a good neighbour to a lonely person? If you have time to spare then the WRVS is looking for volunteers for its Kirklees Good Neighbours project. HILARIE STELFOX reports
CHARITY project worker Julie Patel is only too well aware of the devastating loneliness suffered by some elderly people.
A former community nurse she worked with the elderly and housebound for many years and feels "passionate" about improving the lives of older people.
"There is a lot of loneliness and isolation. Some people might have been very sociable in the past but their friends and family have died or moved away and they find themselves isolated," she said.
That's why she's so keen to find volunteers for a new project run by the WRVS called Kirklees Good Neighbours.
The aim of the project is to team up "befrienders" with the lonely; to help forge friendships and, where possible, to give an elderly and isolated person the chance to get out and about.
"Some elderly people have care-givers who call to deliver meals or do the housework, but they are time-bound and once they've finished their work they have to move on to the next person.
"We're looking for people who can spend a good hour of their time talking to them or taking them out and about.
"It may be something simple like taking an elderly person to the doctor or the hairdresser - the scheme recognises that transport can also be a huge problem for the elderly," she said.
Kirklees Good Neighbours is a local community scheme funded through the Government's Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, that aims to improving the lives of people in the greatest need.
The WRVS is one of the voluntary and charitable organisations involved in the initiative.
Julie is hoping to find volunteers from all sections of the community, including young people.
"You have to be over 18 to volunteer so I'm approaching colleges and the university. Volunteering can be great for developing personal skills, looks good on your cv and can be a stepping stone to employment.
"There are many reasons for volunteering. Some people just want to become more involved with their community and put something back. Retired people might have time on their hands and want to help others," explained Julie.
Elderly people felt to be in need of a good neighbour will be referred by social services and other agencies to the WRVS. "We'll try to match people up with someone who lives nearby. We don't want anyone having to travel a long way," she said.
Volunteers will be paid out-of-pocket expenses and will be required to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check (which the organisation will pay for) and a short induction course.
If you would like to know more about Kirklees Good Neighbours, call Julie on 01484 223609 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to Kirklees Good Neighbours, WRVS Office, Paddock Village Hall, West View, Paddock, Huddersfield HD1 4TX.