The project involved delivery of one-to-one counselling for older people in the region who were experiencing social isolation and loneliness as a result of a close family bereavement. Participants received up to six weeks of individual support, before being offered the opportunity to join one of four ‘Friendship after Bereavement’ or FAB groups, offering social activities and peer support.
These groups met fortnightly in community venues across the delivery area, with activities designed and led by participants. During the course of the project, the FAB groups evolved from their intended purpose (to provide bereavement peer support) into a more general support group for those experiencing loneliness or social isolation, after participants reported that their specific bereavement issues had already been addressed through the one-to-one sessions.
Volunteer counsellors (who had an existing level 1 or 2 counselling qualification or who were in training to become counsellors) were recruited to deliver the one-to-one sessions and were trained as FAB group coordinators to support the participants in developing activities.
It was anticipated that the majority of participants would be recruited via referral from health professionals. These referrals would be triaged by the existing Adult Services Team Leader at Listening Ear, before either being put forward for an initial telephone assessment, or, if they involved more complex needs, declined and signposted to more appropriate support.
A referral form was developed and delivered to local health and social care service providers to promote the service. Self-referrals were also encouraged through leaflet distribution to a range of community healthcare settings. Despite these efforts, very few enquiries or referrals were initially received, so delivery of the project was subsequently expanded to a wider area.