A befriending scheme for those with life-limiting illnesses will help even more people in west Essex, thanks to grant of £10,000.

St. Clare Hospice, based in Hastingwood, has received the funding boost from the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF) for their compassionate neighbours programme.

The scheme connects people who are socially isolated due to life-limiting illnesses or limited mobility from older age with members of the public, who volunteer their time to visit or call them regularly.

Julie Foster, from St. Clare Hospice, said: “The risk of social isolation has increased dramatically ever since Covid-19 took hold and we had been expanding our programme as much as possible to try and meet the growing demand, particularly in rural areas, but we have been limited by staff resource.

“This grant from ECF helped us to employ a full-time support worker who will expand our work matching local volunteers to members of the community by encouraging the building of genuine friendships through weekly visits or phone calls.”

Julie added: “The project benefits both parties – the compassionate neighbour and the community member. Many of our compassionate neighbours have experienced the loss of a loved one and are themselves lonely and isolated.”

Sylvy volunteers as a compassionate neighbour and said: “I had always wanted to give something back and when I found out about the scheme, and that I could start doing home visits to bring companionship, I knew this project was right for me. But it’s a two-way thing; it’s got to work for both people, and with Pam, my match, as soon as I walked in the door, I knew that this was right.”

If you would like to access support from compassionate neighbours or enquire about becoming a volunteer, visit https://stclarehospice.org.uk/wellbeing-hub/compassionate-neighbours/.

During the pandemic, St. Clare Hospice also launched a new bereavement helpline, established weekly counselling sessions for nursing and residential home care workers, and created new support materials to help people facing death and loss.

For more information about ECF and how you can apply for funding or donate to support local charities, visit www.essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk.