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Huge increase in demand for Walsall befriending service

By James Vukmirovic | Walsall | Coronavirus | Published:

A community befriending service says it has seen a huge increase in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Hooper receiving his food parcel from Whg driver Lee Wiggins

Making Connections Walsall is a project which provides food parcels, prescription services and befriending services to lonely, isolated and vulnerable people in the borough.

The service, which began in 2017, takes referrals from across the borough before contacting one of four locality hubs to arrange an appointment to discuss the individual’s needs.

This includes supporting them to access social activities and other services, including mental health support.

More Covid-19 coverage:

The project says it has received an additional 1,250 befriending requests across its four locality hubs since the pandemic began, with referrals for people over 50 increasing significantly.

Diana Southall is community development officer and programme lead for Covid at the Old Hall People’s Partnership Hub in Bentley,

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She spoke about the referrals to the service and how much it had increased since the start of the outbreak.

"Referrals to the service have increased by substantially since the crisis began," she said.

"Pre-Covid, our befriending service users were older people in the 50-plus age group, but there’s been a sharp increase in those under 50 in need of help and support since the pandemic began.

"The biggest challenge has been around the increase and severity of the mental health issues being faced by referrals.

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"Many are experiencing anxiety, depression, financial concerns and whose symptoms are either being exacerbated by Covid, or the Covid situation is the cause of their anxiety."

The service has had to adapt to deliver its services during the outbreak, with phone consultations instead of face-to-face meetings and increased welfare checks when delivering food parcels.

It has been helped by its partner hubs, Walsall Council and Walsall Housing Group and Councillor Garry Perry from the council said the work of the hubs was very important at this time.

He said: "The work of our Hubs reaches beyond the initial relief effort in providing food and medication assistance to residents.

"Mental health and well-being is as important to many of those we come in contact with.

"As systems reset, we must ensure contact is adaptable to the new way of working post-Covid with resilience as demonstrated by our Hubs at its core."

For more information and to access the service, call 0121 3806690 or email COVID-19communityhelp@walsall.gov.uk.

James Vukmirovic

By James Vukmirovic
Community Reporter - @jamesvukmirovic

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, helping under-represented communities to find a voice in Wolverhampton. Contact me at james.vukmirovic@expressandstar.co.uk.

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