A telephone helpline for old people piloted in the Isle of Man is to be extended across the UK next month.
Television presenter Esther Rantzen visited the island last autumn to launch The Silverline which offers a befriending service for old people who are lonely, as well as tapping into an extensive network of advice and support organisations which can offer help with a range of problems.
The island launch, almost a year ago, was initially to run for three months but it is still going and will now continue alongside the UK launch on November 25. Another pilot scheme was run alongside the Manx one, in Manchester.
Silverline chief executive Sophie Andrews said their volunteers had tackled a range of calls from loneliness to economic abuse, where callers had had money taken, often by family members.
Since its Isle of Man launch, the service has taken 250 calls – not a huge number overall but Ms Andrews stressed as a proportion of the island’s population this is significantly more than those taken from the Manchester and North West region.
‘The calls we did have were also of great value: 12 of them were reporting abuse – one of those came from a resident in a care home. And as a percentage of the total that’s highly significant,’ she said.
‘We were able to pass details on to social services.’
In addition she said nine calls referred to financial abuse, which is thought to be on the increase – some concerning large amounts of money.
A number of the callers were also lonely and were now receiving regular befriending service calls.
‘That uptake has been quite high,’ said Ms Andrews. ‘The pilot was particularly important over Christmas and a number of callers told us we were the only people they had spoken to over that period. Esther [Rantzen] and I made calls to everyone on our befriending list on Christmas day. That’s when people feel really lonely because there is a perception that everyone around you is happy.’
She said callers included people who had moved to the island then been bereaved, or children had moved back to the UK, and there had been a number of carers who had called – often feeling low during the night.
‘About 30 per cent of our calls are at night because even people who have supportive family don’t want to bother them at that time,’ Ms Andrews said.
The Silverline has recently been allocated a £5m lottery grant over two years to support its UK-wide launch. The Isle of Man scheme will continue, call 0800 328 8888.