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North East befriending project gets boost in funding to support its expansion

North East befriending project Silver Talk is set to help more older and vulnerable people across County Durham overcome loneliness and isolation, after receiving a significant funding boost. 

With a £42,000 funding grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Know Your Neighbourhood’ fund, the project, managed by northern housing association Karbon Homes, is piloting a new in-person befriending service, Silver Friends. 

Silver Friends is designed to help people connect with their local community, through a calendar of social events in community venues across North Durham. Over the last four months, over 109 users have benefitted from the pilot, which has been boosted by the support of nine volunteers. 

Paul Moralee, Community Investment Manager at Karbon Homes said: “Building strong, sustainable places for our communities is one of Karbon’s key aims as an organisation, and the expansion of our Silver Talk service, to provide residents across North Durham with an opportunity to connect with one another, improve their mental and physical wellbeing, develop new skills and form social connections, plays a really important role in achieving this. 

“We’ve seen some fantastic results from the pilot of this new service so far, demonstrating the need for services of this kind in our communities. We’re pleased to have secured this funding and look forward to growing the service from strength to strength over the coming months.” 

As well as tackling loneliness and isolation, the new service is also working to build voluntary and community sector cohesion, hosting a series of community events signposting local residents to community support services and volunteering opportunities. 

The first event took place at Dipton Jubilee Centre last week and colleagues from Karbon were joined at the event by Liz Twist MP, Shadow Minister for Local Services and Communities.

Liz said: “Seeing so many groups working across Durham and in the community to support residents was amazing. 

“The ability to come together and look out for one another is something that I know the North East takes great pride in and I am so pleased to see these values right at the heart of the Silver Friends project.

“I want to thank Karbon Homes for pulling this together and increasing the community infrastructure to people across Durham. 

The introduction of Silver Friends builds on the success of Silver Talk over the last two years, a free telephone befriending service for over 55s to help those who may be feeling lonely and isolated to feel connected. 

The service supports 162 services users right across the North East, providing them with a 30-minute social telephone chat from one of its 65 volunteers each week. 

The ‘Know Your Neighbourhood’ fund, which has distributed close to £30million in funding to community projects in 27 disadvantaged areas in across England, of which County Durham is one. 

The funding for County Durham, distributed by County Durham Community Foundation, is designed to support people living in the local authority area to connect with others in their community and engage in volunteering, with the aim of improving wellbeing and pride in place. 

June Allen regularly attends the Chester-le-Street Silver Friends coffee and bingo morning. 

“I do a lot of work in the house and I care for my sister and my grandson. I knew I needed to get out more and socialise and the Silver Friends group was something I could do for myself. It gets me away from the day to day, it’s a nice atmosphere, and it’s nice to meet new people.” 

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