Norfolk’s army of ‘critically important’ volunteers

Care minister Norman Lamb praised the efforts of volunteers in enriching people’s lives as he opened a new charity hub in Norwich.


How YOU can become a friend in need

A Friend in Need is a campaign run by the Norwich Evening News and Voluntary Norfolk to increase the number of volunteer befrienders in the city.

It aims to reduce loneliness and isolation among vulnerable people by pairing them with volunteers, and was launched after the tragic death of a Lakenham man in January 2012, who may have been dead for months before being discovered.

Not all the clients on Voluntary Norfolk’s books are at risk, but all benefit greatly from spending a couple of hours a week with a befriender.

A Friend in Need this year won high-profile backing from Norfolk coroner William Armstrong, and its impact on the city has been recognised with it being named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF Energy East of England Media Awards in February 2013. To find out more or to sign up, call Voluntary Norfolk on 01603 614474.

The North Norfolk MP said the ageing population faced an “epidemic of loneliness” – but that volunteers giving up their time were able to make the difference and reach the areas that traditional services could not.

Mr Lamb was speaking as he formally opened Voluntary Norfolk’s new headquarters in Colegate, following the charity’s move from Pottergate last month.

Since last summer the charity has been working with the Norwich Evening News to sign up volunteers to offer friendship and company to vulnerable people of all ages across the city, and has recruited more than 100 already.

Mr Lamb said such volunteers were “critically important” in offering the services that could not be provided by the state, and rebalancing our “inadvertently neglectful society”.

“The question we ask is ‘What services do people need?’

“What we should be asking is ‘How do we give someone a good life?’ How do we focus on happiness and wellbeing?” he said.

“Statutory services on their own can’t give people a good life: it’s about the wider society.”

Voluntary Norfolk chief executive Brian Horner said the new offices would provide “a one-stop shop” for volunteers and charities in Norwich.

Meeting and training rooms are available for hire, and one tenant partner has already been lined up, he added.

“We deliberately have some spare capacity here, and we want to encourage other voluntary organisations to come in,” he said.

“We want to create a hub where people can come to volunteer, find out about support available to them and other voluntary organisations, as well as our other training and back-of-house services.”

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