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two share community workers packing food

Wandsworth charity launches volunteer befriending service for adults with learning difficulties

Wandsworth based charity Share Community has launched a befriending service, where volunteers provide valuable social interaction for those most in need. 

Social distancing measures and long periods of isolation due to the lockdown have affected everyone, but one group which is often overlooked is adults with learning difficulties or autism. 

Share Community, has witnessed the detrimental effects that the lack of social interaction has had on the mental health of the adults in their care. 

Rachel Healy a spokesperson for the charity said: “We had noticed during the first lockdown just how devastating the effects of isolation had been, especially on people with learning difficulties and their families.” 

The charity provides training and employment support for disabled people. 

Students would ordinarily attend face to face classes at the charity’s training centres in Clapham Junction, Tooting, and Brixton. 

However, during the lockdowns the centre was forced to close, and students and their families have been struggling as a result. 

Even now lockdown measures are over, certain students such as those with Down’s syndrome are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and must remain at home. 

Healy said: “Being stuck at home has really affected our students.

“We identified a need to boost their mental health so we started with our own staff volunteers meeting up with and going for socially distanced walks in the park.

“If our students did not want to go out then we would drop off an art pack or some kind of learning pack to their house.

“We might even just have a chat in the front garden, obviously socially distanced, that’s how it started.”

From the success of these socially distanced interactions the charity decided to set up a more permanent befriending service calling on the help of volunteers. 

Healy said: “It is something that, regardless of whether we are in lockdown or not, is just so important.

“We have had such lovely feedback from all our students who want this to continue.” 

The charity appealed for volunteers to give up an hour or two during the week or at the weekend to give their students the opportunity to have regular contact with someone outside their usual support bubble to help them feel less alone. 

Healy added: “The idea is to do something really simple like going for a walk when restaurants are open going to get a cup of tea and a cake or helping them with their grocery shopping.”

The charity has been so overwhelmed with calls from would-be volunteers that they have had to put the training of some on hold until January. 

Visit https://www.sharecommunity.org.uk for more information or to become a befriender when applications reopen in January contact Leanne Wood at: [email protected].

Featured image credit: Share Community

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