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Christian charity launches new telephone befriending tool Two’s Company

This week sees the launch of a new telephone befriending project called Two’s Company, which has been developed by national Christian charity Linking Lives UK.

It has recently been piloted in four communities in England, Wales and Scotland, and will shortly be available for use by churches and Christian organisations across the UK.

The approach provides a tried, tested, straightforward and safe process for local churches to ensure that people within their local communities, who are particularly at risk at this time, can receive regular telephone contact from a member of their congregation. These calls will provide a real lifeline for those who have few family members or close friends.

The model, which has been developed over recent weeks, is based on a home visiting approach which has been used by Linking Lives UK, to develop 35 face-to-face befriending projects since 2010.

National Director, Jeremy Sharpe (right), explains “When it became clear that Covid-19 was going to have such a significant impact, we recognised that we needed to adapt our core processes, and also consider ways in which we could serve churches at this challenging time.

“Two’s Company, therefore, began to emerge as a way in which local churches could use their resources, local knowledge and contacts in a way which demonstrates the love of God in a very practical way to those most on the margins.”

The new initiative encourages partnerships with existing organisations on a local level, and recommends using volunteer telephone befrienders who have already been vetted for previous roles by the church. Each church or organisation running the telephone befriending service will require a coordinator and a dedicated phone line (advice is provided about creating Freephone numbers).

Training is provided via video conferencing by Linking Lives UK to local coordinators and is, in turn, ‘cascaded’ to volunteers within the local church. There is no charge for accessing the package, although partner churches are invited to make a donation towards the costs of developing and running the service.

Rev Dr Chris Steed, the Team Rector of one of the churches piloting the initiative, explains “The project is going live already in Calmore, on the edge of Southampton, with a pool of volunteers and a Helpline that is being publicized in the community and through local schools. Being able to make use of this tailored approach has enabled us to respond quickly and effectively in engaging with local volunteers and those requesting regular calls.”

Linking Lives UK expects that, particularly for those groups of people with specific health conditions, or in a particular age bracket, there will continue to be a period of ‘shielding’ for some time to come. This makes initiatives such as Two’s Company’ a crucial response both on a short term basis during the immediate crisis, but also into the future as life begins to return to some level of ‘normality’.

The charity expects, however, that there will be longer term implications to the current situation in relation to mental and physical health, as well as a greater interest in questions of life and death and that churches will continue to have a crucial role to play in responding to these key issues.

Anyone representing a church or Christian organisation can request an Introductory Pack at www.linkinglives.uk or email twoscompany@linkinglives.uk

The full package, including details of training, publicity templates and other materials, will subsequently be made available towards the end of April 2020.

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