Award-winning Rainbow Call Companions service, run by charity Re-engage, is celebrating its first anniversary – and is on course to reach its target of helping older LGBTQ+ people.
Research by the charity, which is dedicated to ending loneliness and isolation among those aged 75 and over, found that older LGBTQ+ people were more likely to be alone and less likely to have family support.
When it launched the service last March, nearly 150 volunteers immediately came forward. Their ages range from 18-79. Within months it had received a NHS National Advisor for LGBT Health Award from Dr Michael Brady, National Advisor for LGBT Health at NHS England, who said: “This work takes courage and persistence and I am really grateful for your efforts which, I have no doubt, will have benefited LGBTQ+ individuals greatly.”
Thirty-five older LGBTQ+ people have been matched with a volunteer and another ten applications are being processed. Re-engage is aiming to have 100 service users by the end of year two.
Sam Higgins, EDIB Engagement Officer for Re-engage, said: “This is a hard-to-reach audience but we are confident we are providing an excellent service with many older LGBTQ+ people finding it incredibly helpful and supportive.
“As people get older they might feel they want to live their true lives before they die. Some in the LGBTQ+ community may have been in a relationship for many years and now their partner has passed on they feel at a loss. And that’s where rainbow call companions comes in.”
Volunteer Selby, who is in his forties, has a call companion almost twice his age: “He’s had a tough life but he’s resilient, which shows by the way he’s reached out to the service,” he said.
And Roisin, 30, whose call companion is in her seventies, said: “I find volunteering for Rainbow Call Companions very fulfilling. I really look forward to making the calls and listening to older people and building a friendship.”
Derek, 88, said: “Rainbow Call Companions is a wonderful service and I hope more of our community will come to use it. I get regular calls from my call companion, Jules, and we talk about almost everything. It’s marvellous for me because otherwise I might not speak to another person from one week to the next.”
Mathew, 79, whose partner of 53 years died in 2019, said: “The service is absolutely fantastic. Talking to someone on the same level is brilliant.”
If you know of someone who would benefit from the Rainbow Call Companion service, get in touch with Re-engage HERE or call 0207 240 0630.
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