National older people’s charity Re-engage and Anchor Hanover, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for people in later life, have come together to tackle the rise in loneliness intensified by the pandemic.

The new partnership between the two organisations will find ways to alleviate loneliness amongst Anchor Hanover residents, kicking off with the promotion of Re-engage’s telephone befriending service, Call Companions, to those who would benefit from a regular phone call.

The collaboration came about as the housing and care provider was seeking a long-term, sustainable solution, to provide support for residents to ensure a voluntary telephone response service set up at the start of the pandemic could continue.

Anchor Hanover has over 50,000 housing residents across England, ranging in age from 55 to 105. During the country’s first national lockdown, the organisation found that over 13% of these didn’t have the support of family or friends. Meanwhile, ONS figures published in July revealed that those most likely to experience ‘lockdown loneliness’ include the over-70s and highlighted people living in rented housing.

Anchor Hanover’s in-house telephone support service, BeSupportive, was set up by the organisation at the start of the crisis and delivered solely by its staff to identify those who may be most lonely and in need of extra support. Staff volunteered to ring residents once a week providing an opportunity for residents who felt lonely or isolated to talk about their family, hobbies, or their favourite soap.

BeSupportive also proved invaluable to those who did not have the support from family or friends for a variety of reasons. The service enabled staff to identify any extra support they needed, putting them in touch with local volunteers and community groups who could help with shopping and providing other essential provisions.

Re-engage has been providing social connections for older people for 50 years. With the help of its UK-wide network of 15,000 volunteers, the charity suspended its popular face-to-face gatherings as the crisis hit in March and launched Call Companions, supporting nearly 8,000 older people who live alone with regular friendly phone calls.

With a team of dedicated volunteers and similar aims and ambitions to reduce loneliness for those in later life, Anchor Hanover’s telephone support service has been incorporated into Call Companions. All Anchor Hanover residents who need a BeSupportive support call are now able to receive a call from a Re-engage call companion.

Re-engage Chief Executive, Meryl Davies, said: “Teaming up with Anchor Hanover to support their residents with call companions is an exciting project for the Re-engage team and working together makes perfect sense. Anchor Hanover staff have shown incredible care and commitment to their tenants during the pandemic and we are looking forward to continuing that work with them.”

Anchor Hanover Director of Service Development, Nick Sedgwick, said: “We are delighted to have formed this partnership with Re-engage. They have been operating, like Anchor Hanover, for over 50 years and we have similar aims and common thinking about how we want to reduce loneliness for those in later life.

“We are determined to ensure that residents can still access a telephone support service. It proved to be rewarding for both residents and the volunteers during such a difficult time. We are very excited about the opportunities to expand our joint working with Re-engage to tackle loneliness during the pandemic but also at a time when restrictions gradually reduce in the future. The combination of a specialist charity and a large housing provider opens new potential solutions to maximise the benefits of a large volunteer base to improve the quality of life of many and contribute to more resilient communities.”

In recent weeks, as a way of trialling the partnership, Re-engage has provided call companions for more than 100 Anchor Hanover tenants. Those receiving the calls say it makes a huge difference, giving them the opportunity to chat about everyday things and the comfort of knowing that someone cares.

One resident, Ian, who’s 85 and lives in the midlands, started receiving the calls because he was feeling low after experiencing health problems. He says: “I live in a complex for older people with a shared living area but since the pandemic we haven’t been able to mix at all. It’s been difficult because I haven’t been well, but I don’t like to encroach on other people’s privacy.

“It means a lot to have someone to chat with every week. My family keep in touch, but it’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t in the family. It gives one the sense of being valued by society. The person who calls me has become a friend and I’m not someone who’s ever been particularly good at making new friendships. After the calls I always feel a sense of relief that somebody out there values my company.”

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