Sadness as befriending service is axed

Lonely elderly people face an uncertain future
Lonely elderly people face an uncertain future

Vulnerable and lonely elderly people could be facing a more uncertain future with the shock news that a befriending service has been disbanded.

The Age UK Lancashire charity said it was saddened to close the service, which has been a lifeline to many elderly people in Burnley and beyond, due to a lack of funding.

The charity, which has offices in Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and the Ribble Valley, co-ordinated volunteers to “befriend” and spend time with isolated and lonely people in the community. One such volunteer in Burnley, retired teacher Marilyn Ashmore (70) told the Burnley Express how upset she was with the decision.

“I’ve volunteered on this service for 18 years. It’s so sad to hear it is coming to an end. The lady I visit is 92 and has recently gone into a care home, although I still visit her there,” she said.

“I used to call at her home and take her out for the day or for shopping. The cost of the service, I believe, goes on volunteers’ travel expenses.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford my own travel expenses but I know that’s not the case for all volunteers.”

Mrs Ashmore said that the volunteers also played another vital role in “keeping an eye” on the welfare of vulnerable people in terms of spotting any potential situations where they may be being exploited.

She added: “Some unscrupulous people can exploit lonely elderly people. We can usually spot if that’s the case. Losing this service is a very sad situation all round.”

The Age UK Lancashire befriending service will continue in Blackburn, but end in other areas of East Lancashire.

A spokesman for Age UK Lancashire said: “It is with huge sadness that Age UK Lancashire has made the very difficult decision to close its befriending service in East Lancashire.

“Age UK Lancashire has delivered a befriending service in East Lancashire for just over seven years with no external funding to support the provision within this time.

“The current external funding climate has been declining over a number of years and all attempts to secure funding for this service have been unsuccessful.

“The pressures on the economic and financial environment of charities and other third sector organisations are being experienced across the country and it has proven more and more difficult to retain services where there is no funding to support them.”