Ring a ring of new friends

Sovereign Housing Association has teamed up with Pramalife – a Dorset charity that organises activities, clubs, and groups for older people and their carers - to offer £2,000 funding for a phone chat service with a difference.

Pramalife will lead a partnership of around 20 other local organisations and charities to run ‘Telephone Friendship Groups’ - designed to connect people with passions who are missing the hubbub of ordinary life, across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Groups of up to six people will get to ‘meet’ each other on the phone – to have a natter about the things they love from football to fishing, baking to books. 

Using an innovative system controlled by an organiser volunteer, participants do not have to have access to the internet to join in, just an ordinary phone line or mobile. Those who want to take part can dial in with a pin number, or be added by the host of the call. Calls are free to those taking part from a landline, and 8p a minute from most mobile providers, though free minutes can be used to participate too. Calls will last around 45 minutes to ensure that no-one taking part is stung by hidden charges.

Other charities are encouraged to contact Pramalife if they think that people they support would benefit from the service.

Diane Humphries, Community Development Officer for Sovereign, said: “Although Pramalife largely offers support for older people, the phone chat initiative is open to anyone struggling with loneliness or feelings of isolation.

“At Sovereign one of our key aims is trying to create better places for people to live, growing a sense of community and belonging. We know that Covid-19 has brought huge, sometimes difficult changes to people’s lives, and we’re hoping that the thought of a weekly chat about something that is not the pandemic might offer that ray of sunshine and give people a chance to open up on topics they care about.”

The phone calls can be arranged at any time of the day or night that suits organisers and participants.

Sue Warr, Pathways Manager for Pramalife, said: “Anyone can get involved in our Telephone Friendship Groups. It’s an opportunity to speak to other people on a regular basis, and might lead people to make new friends or get involved in new activities in the future. It’s also a great volunteering opportunity to make other people feel less alone, and might give you the chance to talk to other people with a similar interest to you. We like to say ‘You’re never alone with a friend on the phone!’”

To become a coordinator, volunteers will need to be prepared to give around an hour and a half of their time to set up and then manage calls, as well as undergoing a DBS check and training on how to pick up on any other requests for help or support that might come about during the calls. For more information, contact Sue Warr on sue.warr@pramacare.co.uk or call 07867 354588.

Notes to editor

Organisations involved with the Telephone Friends partnership include: Christchurch Community Partnership, Community Action Network - A Good Life programme, Poole Churches Together, Faithworks Wessex, Age UK Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset, SEDCAT, Community Action Network (CAN), Hope in The Community, Public Health Dorset, Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, Help and Care, Bournemouth Community Church, Dorset Blind Association, Bournemouth Blind Society, Independent Age, British Red Cross and BCP Council.