At Age Concern are, from left, volunteer co-ordinator Gwen Glover, scheme administrator Fiona Langborne and development officer Mark O’Sullivan. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
WIGHT LIVINGLOVE thy neighbour is an old saying that has been forgotten by some people.
But a new scheme on the Island is trying to restore the idea of helping others.
The Age Concern Good Neighbour Scheme is a voluntary service aimed at providing assistance to Islanders over the age of 50.
Tasks can include some light shopping, dog walking, prescription collection, gardening, letter writing or even just paying a social visit.
The scheme is led by development officer and former police officer, Mark O’Sullivan, who holds talks and presentations with community groups and ensures the scheme runs smoothly.
"Volunteers can be asked to carry out a wide range of tasks, which can also include specific skills, such as haircutting or sewing, and there are already volunteers in other areas of the Island offering IT skills," said Mark.
Last summer, three pilot schemes were set up in Sandown, Lake and Brading, with the help of 45 volunteers.
Other schemes have now been set up in Ryde, Newport, Freshwater, Tot-land, Cowes, Gurnard and Northwood, demonstrating the success of the project.
"As well as our existing areas, we also have ten other locations where we are developing new schemes," said Mark. "Initially we need to recruit about 15 volunteers per area, but there is no upper limit on the number of volunteers in a scheme."
Age Concern IW has traditionally provided a variety of services to older residents on the Island, but due to public sector cutbacks the IW Council withdrew funding for some services.
Age Concern IW decided to amalgamate two services — the Befriending Service and Shopping Angels — into the new Good Neighbour Scheme and managed to obtain funding from Lloyds TSB Foundation and Comic Relief.
Mark said: "All new volunteers are invited to our office for an interview with staff member Gwen Glover, where they are asked what tasks they feel happy to carry out, when they are free and how much spare time they have for volunteering.
"There is absolutely no pressure for any volunteer to do anything they don’t want to do.
"The interview also includes a police CRB check because volunteers are sometimes asked to go into the homes of vulnerable older neighbours as potential strangers.
"It helps to build confidence in the scheme for older neighbours, volunteers and the wider community.
"Our volunteers are then asked to carry out a mandatory half-day induction course, covering topics such as health and safety, personal boundaries, confidentiality and safeguarding.
"At the end of the course, volunteers are given an ID badge and they’re ready to go.
"The support allows some older people to retain their independence and remain in their own homes for longer than may otherwise be possible."
One volunteer is 78-year-old Malcolm Pay, who visits Age Concern’s IW head office in Pyle Street, Newport, once a week to provide telephone befriending to around 26 housebound people.
Gwen said: "Malcolm has been with us since 1999 in a variety of roles.
"He first came to us after suffering a stroke and often refers to Age Concern as his lifeline.
"This is the perfect example of how volunteering is a two-way thing, providing happiness and satisfaction to both parties."
Another volunteer is Alec Gillett, who lives in Ryde and assists a number of clients, including a 109-year-old woman in Bembridge and Frank and Phyllis Cockayne, of Ryde, who are in their 80s.
Alec said: "I wanted to give something back to the community and I am fortunate enough to be in a position that I can help other people.
"I sit with Phyllis and Frank and we have a chat and a cup of tea for about an hour and a half. It’s nice for them and also nice for me to get out and about."
Phyllis said: "I think the Good Neighbour Scheme is a great idea and we enjoy having a visit from Alec.
"We sit, have a cup of tea and have a chat about aviation, the health service, all the rubbish that’s on television and all sorts of other things.
"We look forward to Alec coming around and I think he enjoys it as much as we do."
Gwen added: "We were contacted when Mr and Mrs Cockayne had been ill and unable to get out to the shops. They were naturally wary of allowing a stranger into their home but took to Alec straight away.
"He has not yet been needed to provide any other help other than socialising but they know he will be there when needed.
"We are constantly in need of new volunteers as requests for assistance to support older neighbours are growing steadily.
"Being able to make such a difference in the lives of older neighbours carries with it a strong feel good factor."
If you think you could help someone less fortunate than yourself or feel you could benefit from some assistance from the Good Neighbour Scheme, you can call Age Concern on 01983 525282.