Volunteering with the Befriending Service
The befriending service offers support and friendship to members of the community who experience differing degrees of hearing loss (from being profoundly deaf, BSL users or hard of hearing).
They are referred to us by Social Services, friends and relatives, hospitals, church groups, or are self-referred. The service users can be living in their own homes, sheltered housing or residential or nursing homes. They could be lonely, depressed or feel isolation, but, whatever the reason, our aim is to enable a service user to overcome problems and difficulties. We do this by matching each client with a carefully selected volunteer/befriender.
The following real-life brief case-study demonstrates the need for this service:
“Mary has a severe hearing loss and became widowed after 42 years of marriage, losing her only link to the hearing world. She became depressed and isolated, lost all confidence and after 18 months could not venture out. Mary has been referred to NDA by a medical professional and was successfully matched to one of our befrienders. As a result Mary gained companionship from a volunteer who also has a hearing loss. Together they share experiences, and have spent much of their time together in laughter, often about the situations they find themselves in. Mary is more confident and is already able to go to the shops and to go for medical appointments.”
This simple case illustrates the difficulties faced by profoundly Deaf people in order to live life normally like everyone else, as communication poses problems. Unfortunately, most people do not have signing skills and this narrows down potential friendships. As a result, frustration takes over and can lead to isolation and depression for the Deaf person. This has a strong emotional effect on the person’s brain and statistically 40% of Deaf people have mental health issues whereas non-Deaf people only have a record of 10%. Sadly, Deaf people are five times more likely to commit suicide because of the loneliness caused by this lack of communication. The Befriending Service is here to prevent such effects and upsetting thoughts.
All befrienders undergo an initial training programme to equip them with the skills required for the role and require references and enhanced CRB checks before being allowed to work with service users. Further training is provided at least twice per year in order to maintain professional standards.
Half of the Befrienders are users of BSL themselves and we make efforts to support our volunteers by enhancing their BSL skills.
Norfolk Deaf Association is the only organisation in Norfolk offering this specialist service to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.