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Hugely popular befriending service run by Newark and Sherwood CVS to assist the vulnerable and lonely during coronavirus is to be wound up

The hugely-popular Listening Line; the telephone befriending service run by Newark and Sherwood CVS during coronavirus is to cease because its government funding has run out.

The volunteer-supported service has, for the last nine months, provided not just a listening line but a lifeline for many of the community’s isolated and lonely residents, offering comfort and reassurance for them during the extended lockdowns. For some it has been their only much-needed contact.

A district councillor, Laurence Goff, who represents Newark's Devon Ward, and is an advocate for mental health and wellbeing, was surprised by the decision to withdraw funding for the service, which locally is one of a kind.

The Listening Service is being axed after funding dried up.
The Listening Service is being axed after funding dried up.

“I would give my wholehearted support to this absolutely necessary and vital service for the most vulnerable and lonely residents in and around the Newark Sherwood area and would be grateful if the district council will consider carrying on funding this indispensable well-being service," said Mr Goff.

"We still have difficult times ahead with mental health issues which are on the increase.”

Clients, who are expertly matched with their befrienders have benefited from receiving a weekly call, which for some has been valuable contact during these difficult times.

Volunteers, who have been fully supported throughout with training and networking sessions, agree that the benefits are immense.

One logged that her client had “gained self confidence in the short time that we have been chatting and has come along in leaps and bounds, still struggles periodically with negative thoughts and the anxiety remains but it isn't as debilitating as it used to be.”

Jerry Hague, acting chairman of Newark and Sherwood CVS, said: “It is a sad situation and very disappointing that funding for this much-needed service has not been continued.

"Prolonged isolation can have a profound effect on health and wellbeing and it is imperative that Listening Line is able to carry on alleviating loneliness and isolation in the community.”

Listening Line has been running for nine months, currently has 14 volunteers and regularly supports 34 people with weekly phone calls.

Newark and Sherwood District Council leader David Lloyd said: “The Listening Line was a UK government-funded initiative to support residents through the height of the pandemic via a telephone befriending service.

"It originally ran as a six month pilot scheme and was then extended for a further six months to help continue the service as lockdown restrictions continued. It was always planned that the Listening Line service would come to an end once restrictions were eased.

“We’re pleased with how successful the Listening Line service was for supporting local residents during a difficult period and how it combated mental health and wellbeing issues that the pandemic brought about for many. However, for the service to continue and without further central government funding, the District Council would need to continue to fund this with running costs of £26,000 a year.

“There are many alternative schemes available to residents, including those ran by Age UK, Silver Liners, Independent Age, Royal Voluntary Service, Friends of the Elderly and more. We encourage any resident who is feeling isolated or concerned about their wellbeing to contact one of these services.”

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