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RAF charity aiming to tackle loneliness with befriender scheme

The Royal Air Forces Association is encouraging members of the RAF family to get in touch if they’re feeling isolated or lonely and their life could be brightened by visits from a volunteer befriender.

The charity provides welfare support to serving and ex-RAF personnel and their dependents. Their befriending service has teams of dedicated and specially-trained befrienders, who work across the UK to support people in need of a friendly face. They are reaching out to people throughout the UK who could benefit from their support.

The befrienders pay regular visits to their befriendees, giving them someone to talk to and look forward to seeing. Time is often spent reminiscing about life in the RAF and conquering loneliness.

The Association understands that loneliness, which can often occur as the result of losing a loved one or moving into a new home, can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and even depression, particularly among older people.

Volunteers are able to provide support to befriendees in re-establishing old connections or forming new ones with people in their local area, helping to establish a wider group of friends.

In 2017 alone, the Association responded to hundreds of appeals for befriending support, and the charity’s Director of Welfare and Policy, Rory O’Connor, hopes more people will benefit from the scheme.

He said: “We know, from Office for National Statistics data, that five per cent of adults in England last year reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’. Single or widowed people are at particular risk of experiencing loneliness more often, and we know that elderly people with reduced mobility can be hard-hit.

“Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be a serious issue for people who served in the RAF because, when they retire, they suddenly lose the camaraderie of being part of a close-knit community of colleagues.

“Our experience shows that our befriending scheme benefits everyone involved – our volunteers who take time out of their days love doing it, and befriendees benefit hugely from the visits. It’s an extremely positive and far-reaching scheme which we hope will help people to live a healthier and happier life.”

If you are serving in the RAF, have served, are a partner or know somebody who is feeling a little lonely, get in touch with the RAF Association and find out how they can help you. Places on the scheme are subject to availability. Call during the week on 0800 018 2361, email welfare@rafa.org.uk or visit rafa.org.uk/befriending