Lottery boost for Swaffham befrienders

Dozens of elderly and isolated people living in and around Swaffham are to benefit from a �115,425 Lottery windfall announced today.

Age Concern Swaffham and District will use the Big Lottery Reaching Communities grant to employ a part-time co-ordinator to expand its Befrienders scheme over the next five years.

A trio of existing volunteers regularly visits lonely people in their homes, giving them a vital link to the outside world and a listening ear, but the group has struggled to find a volunteer to organise the visits.

Now, a paid co-ordinator will work for three days a week to recruit extra helpers and organise home visits, meaning more people will soon be reached.

'We have been trying for more than three years to develop our befriending scheme and are delighted to receive this wonderful grant,' said treasurer James Dean. 'I really feel convinced that this is a service desperately needed.'

Age Concern Swaffham, formed in 2001, has more than 200 members and the befriending project was started about six years ago.

Mr Dean said the scheme was needed now more than ever because of the increasingly elderly population, the loss of local services including Post Offices and threatened cuts to rural bus services, which could further isolate people in outlying villages.

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The charity hopes to eventually recruit another 25 befrienders of all ages to visit up to 100 people each week.

Swaffham Museum last month received �50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the money will be used to employ to part-time staff to a new project called Swaffham: Within Living Memory.

Age Concern Swaffham hopes to advertise the post within a few weeks.

For more information about becoming a befriender, call Mr Dean on 01760 720756.