Town launches phone befriending service to tackle loneliness amid coronavirus

A group of volunteers in Eastbourne have launched an over-the-phone befriending service to tackle loneliness as the coronavirus pandemic prompts self-isolation.

Hundreds have signed up to be friendly voices on the other end of phone calls, that anyone stuck at home can ring up for some company.

Local councillor Helen Burton is in charge of the initiative.

She said: ‘We are just trying to provide some positivity in a time that is going to be terrible for a lot of people.

‘People want to do something to help others, which is fantastic.

‘At the moment, it’s absolutely crisis time and it’s just a case of getting anyone who is isolated someone on the phone.’

Potential phone friends are screened by Helen and then matched up with people in the Eastbourne community, usually within the same district.

The hope is that anyone feeling lonely can hear from the service at least once a week.

‘It’s so heartwarming the amount of people who have been in contact with us saying “I want to help”,’ says Helen.

‘It’s the Blitz spirit that people have been talking about. I think we are good in a crisis.

‘I would like to think that at the end of this, society might shift a little bit and maybe it will get back to knowing your neighbours.’