Elderly to benefit from �115,425 Lottery windfall in Swaffham

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

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.

“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.

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Mr Dean said the scheme was needed now more than ever because of the increasingly elderly population, the loss of local facilities including Post Offices and threatened cuts to rural bus services.

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

It first applied for Lottery funding four years ago and it was third time lucky when this application was successful.

Vice-chairman Barbara Clarke said: “This will be a real help for older people living by themselves.

“I am particularly pleased the Lottery has been able to support the co-ordinator’s post for five years as this will give a greater measure of employment security than is often the case with grant funding.”

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

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