June 19 2013 Latest news:
Monday, March 11, 2013
Our drive to look after vulnerable people across Norwich has won high-profile support after being backed by Norfolk’s coroner.
William Armstrong, above, praised the way A Friend in Need promotes “active citizenship” and encouraged people to take responsibility for those living around them by signing up to the scheme.
More than 75 new volunteers have signed up to the campaign, which last week won a community campaign media award, since it was launched with Voluntary Norfolk last June. After finding out about A Friend in Need, which encourages people to spend two hours a week offering companionship to vulnerable people in their area, Mr Armstrong visited Voluntary Norfolk to discuss the charity’s scheme.
The campaign was started after an inquest presided over by Mr Armstrong found that a Lakenham man led a life so isolated that he may have lain dead at home for months.
Mr Armstrong said: “From my experience there are many vulnerable people living isolated and lonely lives.
“Some of them are not easy to establish a dialogue with but I think this campaign, which promotes the concept of active citizenship, is very much to be endorsed, encouraged and supported.”
Mr Armstrong said in his role he saw a small number of deaths from social isolation every year, but urged people in Norwich to take action to reduce them.
“It is a very depressing experience to be dealing with inquests into the death of somebody who appears to have left this life without friends or support,” he said.
“It’s like a vicar conducting a funeral where no one attends. It’s like no one knows and no one cares.”
He added: “Sometimes people have been dead for months and months, and almost as soon as the death occurs some people will be saying: ‘Why didn’t somebody do something? Why didn’t social services help? Why didn’t the medics help?’
“There are issues about the responsibility that we all have for each other.
“We have responsibility for ourselves, but we also must have responsibility for each other.
“I think the way in which the campaign has generated an interest in this concept of reaching out to people who are living lonely, isolated and consequently vulnerable lives is much to be applauded and encouraged.”
Will Mills, community volunteering coordinator at Voluntary Norfolk, said Mr Armstrong’s visit meant the campaign had “come full circle”.
“His support for the campaign shows that our message is falling on the right ears, something we have seen by the number of clients and volunteers coming to us,” he said.
“It was Mr Armstrong who sparked the campaign in the first place and, a year later, it was nice that he got back in touch to say how pleased he was and to offer his support to us.
“The fact that someone of his stature is such a passionate advocate of community-spirited behaviour is something that motivates the people running the service.”
The number of elderly, ill and disabled people coming forward to request befrienders has also increased since the launch of A Friend in Need, which was last week named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF East of England Media Awards.
Mr Armstrong added: “It is important people know help is available and there are people willing to respond to their needs and spend time with them, in a way which is wholly non-judgmental.
“It is about practical help and being alongside people and giving them friendship and support and helping them become less isolated.”
Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in a garden pond today.
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