Community connecting: tackling social isolation head on

Age Scotland has managed a helpline for many years providing information and advice across a wide spectrum of topics. Last year we were lucky enough to be given funding by the Scottish Government to kick-start a Scotland wide, phone based community connecting service.


The helpline often receives calls from older people feeling isolated or lonely and the community connecting service aims to tackle this head on. Callers can be referred to the service – which just involves them leaving a few details with an adviser. They are then contacted by one of the community connecting volunteers for a longer chat, to find about their interests, what sort of opportunity they might be looking for and any barriers that they might have to getting out and about (for example any mobility issues or difficulties accessing public transport). The volunteer can then get stuck into finding out what is available in the caller’s local area. We’ve been asked to help find all sorts of different opportunities from Men’s Sheds to IT classes, exercise to befriending. In many local authority areas there are specific community connecting projects delivered either by phone or face to face and where this is helpful for the person we will suggest they contact them for local expert knowledge.comcon.png

The Age Scotland helpline is very fortunate to have a team of exceptional and dedicated volunteers and several of them are involved in this new service with new volunteers being recruited to join them. One of our volunteers, Janice explains more about what she does:

“As a volunteer, I have been involved with Age Scotland’s community connecting service since it started a few months ago and am thoroughly enjoying being part of it.  The people I speak to have, for one reason or another, found themselves cut off from the community they live in and are unsure about how to make the first move to become more involved and less isolated.

After having an initial chat about the sorts of things they’re looking for, I try to find some local groups or organisations they might enjoy being part of. (My knowledge of the geography of Scotland is growing by the week!)

As I have been finding out, there is a lot going on out there.  The difficulty for the people who contact us is knowing where to look and, at times, having the confidence to take that first step.  That’s where we step in.  After giving each client some pointers, or even passing on their details to a chosen group, we follow up by making regular calls every 2 or 3 weeks for a couple of months to see how things are progressing, or as one client said, ‘to keep me on track’.

A relationship starts to build between you and the client and it is hugely satisfying when you know that you have got to the point where you can cut your ties because they are on their way. They have reconnected!”

We’ve had some lovely feedback from users about how useful the service has been to them and complementing our volunteers:

‘He’s been absolutely lovely…and I’ve found it helpful talking to him’.

This makes us even more keen to make sure that we can continue growing the service and helping even more people.

To allow this to happen we’ll need even more volunteers – that’s where you might come in!

If you think that you’d like to help people get back out and about in their community please get in touch with our team on 0333 32 32 400 or volunteering@agescotland.org.uk. You can also find out about all of the other ways you can get involved as a volunteer on the Age Scotland website.

 

 

 

5 reasons that volunteering while studying might just be the best idea ever…

Studying at university or college is a huge task. Between lectures, seminars, tutorials, labs, reading and writing reports it can feel that there’s just not enough time to cram it all in and that’s before you even start studying for exams, working part time, socialising or making time to speak to your family.

However, there are some reasons that you still might want to consider volunteering while studying:

  1. It can help you gain valuable and transferable skills

There are many skills that are transferable to all kinds of jobs across every sector. Taking on a volunteer role can be to develop and practise these skills.

A couple of these key skills include communication in all its forms (writing, speaking on the phone etc.) and team working skills.

  1. Getting experience

So, you have the skills you need to land that job. Great! Now all you need is to be able to demonstrate them. In a really competitive job market having practical examples that you can use in an interview are more important than ever. Being able to talk about how you have recently used these skills in a voluntary capacity could set you apart from other applicants.

  1. Meet new people and get involved your (new) community

Volunteering can be a great opportunity to meet people. This can be especially helpful if you are living in a new place. It can also be a nice way to find out more about the community that you are living in and be actively involved in it.13645078_1204367659594797_8972420390861312461_n

  1. Do something worthwhile

Studying can be stressful and for many volunteers their role is a welcome opportunity to do something different and a good way to get away from those stresses and focus on something else for a couple of hours. Feeling that you are doing something worthwhile can be a great confidence boost and this can also help to combat stress.

  1. Find out about yourself

Volunteering is a wonderful way to have a go at doing something new. You might discover something that you are great at, a potential future career or find out about a cause or an issue that you care deeply about.

Age Scotland has had many student volunteers in recent years and they have often told us that volunteering has helped them secure a job or helped them to decide what they want to do when they finish their studies.

If you are concerned about not having enough time to fit volunteering in, it’s good to remember that volunteering can be really flexible. There are roles that require a couple of hours every week, but there are loads of others that involve just a one off activity (for example supporting at an event), just volunteering during holidays or roles that can be worked in when you have time.

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If you are feeling inspired to have a look for a volunteering role you can find out about volunteering with Age Scotland on our website here: www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/get-involved/volunteer/

If we don’t have a role you fancy or would suit you, you can find out about all sorts of volunteering opportunities across the whole of Scotland on Volunteer Scotland website here: www.volunteerscotland.net/

From secondary school to corridors of power – via volunteering

James Dalgleish, 18, came to Age Scotland as a volunteer in February 2014 to work in the Policy and Communications department. He’s been helping Policy Engagement Officer, Hannah Lister with event planning, as well as providing administrative support to the policy and communications team.

The main part of James’ work has focused around the Age Scotland Awards ceremony which will take place at the Scottish Parliament in October. James co-ordinated the mail-out of nomination packs to 900 member groups, and the email to all the local authorities in Scotland, MPs and MSPs.

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Hannah says: “James first started in a volunteering capacity with me in my previous job so when an opportunity arose for a volunteer to help with the Age Scotland Awards and James applied, I knew he would be the ideal person to help us.

“James is conscientious and works well with the rest of the team. He has completely blossomed in the time I have known him into a professional young man and he is providing very valuable support to our policy and communications team. He also makes a great cuppa! I hope he’s learning a lot from his time here with us!”

James showed an understanding of the importance of doing voluntary work when he was only 15. In his 3rd year at Broughton High School, he got involved with the Scottish Youth Parliament and took on his first volunteering role. He worked as a parliamentary assistant in the Scottish Parliament, carried out research, saw committees at work and sat in on First Minister’s Questions.

“I really enjoyed the experience so I went on to help out in my local MSP’s office in January 2012 and then I managed to get an internship between Feb and August 2013 as a case worker in an MP’s office. That’s such an interesting job, such an eye-opener into the way the world works because people turn up with every sort of issue at their MP’s office. I got the chance to help people – that’s what I enjoy the most.

“I’ve now got a paid part-time position working with an MP but I still come into Age Scotland to help with the co-ordination of the Awards celebrations and like doing both – helping people to love later life and working with politicians,” says James.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with Age Scotland and the Silver Line Scotland.

There is still time to nominate a volunteer or volunteer group for the 2014 Age Scotland Awards