COVID-19: Our volunteers lend an ear to tackle lockdown loneliness

It’s a challenging time, and while many of us may be trying to keep busy with work, new hobbies or quizzing with friends on Zoom, what happens when you’re struggling with this new way of life?

We recognise it’s more important than ever to be there for the communities we serve as the Covid-19 pandemic is leaving many individuals feeling incredibly isolated, worried about money and desperately missing contact with their loved ones.

As circumstances are ever-changing we’ve been thinking about how we can best support those who need it the most at this time. As well as offering temporary or long-term help on bills and payments, we’ve teamed up with our Brighton-based charity partner, Lifelines to provide support to the older generation through the charity’s telephone befriending service.

Chatting on the phone with a cup of tea in hand is exactly what’s needed for many right now, so a number of our employees have joined the scheme to lend an ear for up to an hour each week. Whether it’s someone to just be available and listen, or a welcome distraction from the everyday worries, our volunteers are there.

Their role is to also provide regular welfare check-ins to make sure the person at the other end of the phone has the resources they need including food, electricity and medicine. If they need more support, the charity can help with this.

Our volunteers

Private Pumping Station Co-ordinator, Carol McNaughton

I’ve been volunteering for LifeLines since the end of April, providing telephone befriending support to a couple of lovely, elderly ladies. I speak with each of them for 30 minutes a week and I look forward to the call as much as they do.

My phone calls

Both ladies are delightful, with very different personalities. One is really social and told me that at first she didn’t really need the call and didn’t know why she had signed up. But due to relationship changes during lockdown she now believes our calls were meant to be – supporting her through this challenging time.

She’s told me about the struggles with adjusting to her new start, and I’ve mostly listened which she’s told me has really helped her. We’ve always been able to have a chuckle on the phone, but now I can really hear how relaxed and positive she is again.

The second lady I speak to is 98 years young! She’s well-travelled and a great conversationalist. Up until lockdown she was still keeping busy by getting her hair and nails done by herself - a real independent character. However, she’s found living in a care home very isolating as most of the other residents suffer from dementia, so our weekly conversations have been a blessing to her. She’s always appreciative that I’ve phoned and I really look forward to our chats.

Thinking of volunteering?

I would highly recommend volunteering some of your time. Telephone befriending is a wonderful experiencing. While it helps those who may feel isolated or lonely, it can be a huge benefit to you too. I’ve gained so much from volunteering – chatting to my two lovely ladies is the highlight of my week and has really helped me appreciate life that little bit more.

Programme Controller in Engineering & Construction, Andy Trott is also at the end of the phone.

“I volunteered to help a local charity with phone calls to vulnerable people who are isolated at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.”

How it works

“After a brief training session we were given our ‘friends’ numbers. Both of my new friends are elderly and have health issues.

“I speak with both of them for around half an hour every week. Most of the call is a general chat about how they’re feeling and anything else, important or trivial, that they want to talk about.

“As per our training, if they have any major problems or issues, I inform the charity. My friends are very different characters and I’ve enjoyed getting to know both of them.

“My chats have given me a different perspective on lockdown and reminded me to appreciate my health, family and friends. It’s been a really valuable experience for me and I hope it has helped my new friends too.”

Naomi’s story

Internal Communications officer and befriending volunteer, Naomi Turner looks forward to calling her person each week.


Media officer, Lewis Brown has been volunteering too.

"For most of the lockdown I’ve been volunteering for LifeLines in Brighton, a befriending service that helps support vulnerable people and those who might be feeling quite lonely.

I wanted to get involved to help, especially with the lockdown and how that affects people who may have been feeling isolated even before all this started.


"I speak to my contact every week, our conversations are always interesting and entertaining, and I thoroughly look forward to our weekly appointment. I personally get so much from it and would really encourage anyone thinking about helping to get stuck in."

Facilities management member, Verity Drake is another of our befriender volunteers.

“I’ve found the scheme very rewarding. I can hear the joy in the lovely lady’s voice when I speak to her each week, and when she thanks me at the end and tells me she’s looking forward to speaking next week, I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.”

More than lending an ear

“I’m not only helping by listening, I’m getting the opportunity to chat to someone too in these strange times. I’ve found there’s a lot I have in common with my new friend so the half an hour will fly by and can go on for longer without us realising it. She’s also given me a few ideas for my family zoom which has been a great help!”

Thinking about volunteering?

“My advice is to let the individual talk if they want to, and just listen.

“I’d also suggest trying to find out what their interests are, and remember them for the next time you speak. If you have silent moments – which is likely to happen - just ask about them. Also, as you get to know your person you’ll notice whether they’re struggling and if you need to ask certain questions to see if they need anything. If you do have any concerns just let LifeLines know and they will follow it up for you.”