Helping Hands is a volunteer befriending and support service delivered by Highland Hospice throughout Easter Ross and the Black Isle, both very rural areas of Scotland.
How and why we began the befriending service
In 2015 Highland Hospice reviewed the support we were providing for people with a life shortening illness throughout the Highlands.
As part of the review we considered a number of potential new services that may benefit people within their own communities. One of the outcomes of the review was to develop the Helping Hands befriending service.
Helping Hands is a volunteer befriending and support service delivered by Highland Hospice throughout Easter Ross and the Black Isle, both very rural areas of Scotland. The volunteers visit people regularly in their own homes providing social and practical support in an informal way to people with ongoing health concerns that limit their ability to socialise and get out and about.
The service is open to all individuals in need, regardless of their diagnosis. Helping Hands volunteers may offer companionship, help with practical tasks such as shopping, provide emotional support at times of change or difficulty, accompany the client to appointments or a social group or offer respite for the carer to enable them to have time for themselves.
The core to the service being a success is the real connections made between the clients and volunteers. The service was slow to start but is now integrated into the local community and has been positively evaluated by the clients/carers, referrers and volunteers.
The challenges we faced and how we overcame them
There have been a number of challenges setting up the service and I am sure there will be many more as we progress the service in other communities within the Highlands.
Initially referrers were keen for the service but had some difficulties determining who would benefit and how to initiate the conversation about the new hospice service that could benefit them.
To address this we spent some time working with referrers to help them understand that the scope of the hospice includes support for people at various stages of their ill-health journey and that we don't only support people at the end of life.
In fact the earlier people receive support the greater the benefits will be. We continue to spread the message about the benefits of befriending and have a very active Facebook page where we regularly post short video clips from clients, carers and their befrienders.
Following the successful implementation of the befriending service in East Ross, I am now working with various organisations looking at how we can support them to deliver a befriending service within their own communities.
For some areas we are in early discussions while in others befriending services are being delivered in partnership with Highland Hospice. Each community is different therefore each service and partnership is different.
Some examples of our current partners include:
- Sutherland Care Forum delivering the Friends at Home befriending service
- Skye and Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations delivering the Skye and Lochalsh Friends and Neighbours befriending service
- North Coast Connections delivering the Helping Hands North Coast Helping Hands befriending service
- Inverness NHS Neighbourhood teams delivering the Helping Hands Neighbourhood Befriending Service
For more information, please contact Susan Smith, Helping Hands Service Manager, Highland Hospice.