This is part of a series of conversations with member organisations of the Connection Coalition.
Sandra Marsden is the Membership Services Officer at Befriending Networks, the national intermediary for befriending services. Sandra recently co-facilitated a Connection Coalition informal get together with The Jo Cox Foundation.
Befriending Networks supports nearly 400 members with training, information, guidance, and opportunities for connection and collaboration. They have been running an annual Befriending Week campaign for 11 years. This year, Befriending Week will take place from 1-7 November, online and in communities.
Befriending offers supportive, reliable relationships through volunteers to people who would otherwise be socially isolated. Around the UK, befriending projects organise effective support for groups such as children and young people, families, people with mental ill-health, people with learning disabilities and older people. Several different befriending projects are also members of the Connection Coalition, in fact!
Befriending often provides people with a new direction in life, opens up a range of activities, leads to increased self-esteem and self-confidence, and can reduce social isolation and loneliness by improving wellbeing. Befriending can also reduce the burden on other services which people may use inappropriately as they seek social contact. We’re a relatively small team at Befriending Networks, but we make a big noise about the positive impact of befriending!
What’s Befriending Week?
Befriending Week really is a highlight of the year for the membership of Befriending Networks – a moment for us all to pause, reflect, and celebrate the wonderful achievements, the team efforts, and the difference befriending makes every day.
More than a celebration
Whilst celebration will always be at the heart of Befriending Week, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen the befriending sector. This feels particularly acute in 2023 given the pressures on funding, cost of living, increased demand for services, and the continuous need for volunteers. We believe using our collective voice over the course of Befriending Week can raise the profile and bring positive attention to our sector.
We published our annual Befriending Statistics Report which profiles the scale of befriending in the UK. On average, a befriending volunteer provides 51 hours of befriending support per year. More than 1 million befriending hours were contributed by volunteers. More than 55,000 people are benefiting from befriending support. The economic value of befriending is estimated to be at least £16.3 million.
Befriending Week will launch with our annual membership conference on 1 November, which focuses on the theme that “Befriending is Support.” This is an ideal time for our members to connect with one another and to inform our Voice of Befriending report, which is due to be published soon.
Our website, www.befriending.co.uk is the go-to place for supporters of Befriending Week where you can find resources and materials to celebrate and promote befriending week. Each day we will be asking a question of our online followers about befriending. Over the week we will be sharing 21 outstanding befriending case-studies on our social media channels and website.
What we’re most looking forward to is the connection, celebration, and community that we share with our members during Befriending Week. We know that right across the country they will be hosting events, thanking their volunteers, and shouting loud about the benefits and power of befriending.
What others can do
Grab our Supporters Board, snap a photo and tag us in. You can follow along and engage all week long using #BefriendingWeek. Find us on Facebook and LinkedIn @BefriendingNetworks or on X/Twitter @BefriendingNet.