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Volunteers' Week 2023: Be-a-Friend and Befriending Plus Services – what are they, who can take part, and why do they matter?

Published on 08 June 2023 03:28 PM

Antonia (left) and her volunteer Julijana (right) celebrating Antonia's 70th birthday


Our Be-a-Friend service is one of our longest running and most popular services. Age UK Wandsworth have been matching isolated older people with volunteer befrienders since 1987 – that’s 35 years! The premise is simple – people over 65, who live alone and have limited social contact can be referred to the service by a friend, neighbour, professional or by self-referring. If they are suitable for the service, our Be-a-Friend Coordinator, Marc, will visit the person to find out more about them – their hobbies, past jobs, family and friends. This information helps him to find a good match with a local volunteer.

The volunteer can then begin calling or visiting the older person – this can be nerve-wracking at first for both parties, but any awkwardness usually dissipates early on! The volunteer and their new friend can set up a suitable time for them to meet each week for a chat and a cup of tea, which could be during the day, if the volunteer is retired or works from home, or in the evening on the way home from work. For many of our matched pairs, this is the beginning of a firm friendship. Befriending can provide support in a multitude of ways; older people often feel more confident to get out and meet new people after meeting their volunteer, as well as having increased self-esteem, and, of course, a reduced sense of loneliness and isolation. 

Who are our volunteers? 

Our volunteers go through an application, interview, and induction process, including a DBS background check to ensure the safety of our clients. We have volunteers from all different backgrounds; the only requirements are that volunteers are over 18, live or work in Wandsworth and have a kind and patient attitude. Volunteers receive monthly updates and support when they need it from Marc, as well as invitations to our annual volunteer appreciation party, specialist training sessions and other social events. Most importantly, our volunteers get to give back to their community, whilst making a new friend in the process! 

Last year, our 168 befriending volunteers gave 11,563 hours of their time, and we are so grateful for each and every one of them.

How can I get involved? 

The last few years have been very difficult for older people, and the effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis mean that demand for this service is higher than ever and our waiting list of people ready to be matched continues to grow.  

This is where you come in! 

Our minimum commitment for Be-a-Friend volunteers is 1-2 hours per week, for at least 6 months. You can find more information about our application process at the bottom of this article.

Befriending Plus

Befriending Plus is an extended version of the Be-a-Friend programme for clients who need help with life admin and small tasks as well as companionship. For Befriending Plus pairs, time spent together can include helping to use a phone or tablet, helping the client to organise their file, going out for a coffee or popping to the post office together. This support can help older people to stay independent at home for longer, as well as increasing their confidence to do these tasks when the volunteer is not there. 

Antonia and Julijana’s Story 

Antonia and her volunteer Julijana have been paired since September 2021. After Antonia's late husband sadly passed away two years ago, Julijana began to visit Antonia for a few hours every week.

Currently Julijana supports Antonia with her shopping, and collecting her prescriptions. They exchange books, and Julijana helps Antonia to use her iPad. She has even brought her mum along to meet Antonia!

Julijana, who started volunteering with us during the pandemic in 2020, brilliantly encapsulates how volunteering can be equally worthwhile to both parties: 

“Seeing Antonia makes me very happy, and it gives me a lot of purpose. It's very fulfilling to be able to help and bring joy to someone by doing ordinary things. I'm very grateful to the Befriending Plus service and Age UK Wandsworth for giving me this opportunity, it has made my life in London much more fulfilled. I will always remember the moment when I helped her make her first ever video call on her iPad to her sister and niece who live far away- after the call she told me 'Thank you for helping me. My heart feels different after seeing their faces again'."

Meanwhile, Antonia writes of Julijana that: 

“She has helped me so much. I don’t know what I would have done without her company, and she makes me very happy.” 

We really need more brilliant volunteers like Julijana, who can commit time every week to support an older person in the borough. The Befriending Plus role is perfect for someone who is organised, friendly and patient, who can commit 2 hours a week for a minimum of six months. 

I’m interested! How do I get involved?

If you would like to get involved with Be-a-Friend or Befriending Plus and would like to know a bit more about what the role requires, give us a call Monday-Thursday 10am-3pm on 020 8877 8940 and ask to speak with the Be-a-Friend or Befriending Plus Coordinators. You can also reach the team by emailing

We can’t wait to hear from you! 

I would like a volunteer to visit me, and I am over 65, living alone in Wandsworth

If you, a friend, family member or neighbour are interested in joining the Be-a-Friend service, you can find out how to make a referral here. Please note that referrals to the Befriending Plus service can only be made by social workers.