Befriending Week event: During Befriending Week (1-... - Mencap


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Befriending Week event


During Befriending Week (1-7 November 2020) we had Diane from Befriending Networks ( here to share top tips about befriending.

This topic is now closed, but please do read Diane's amazing posts for advice and information about befriending.

Diane also posted some other really great posts through out the week:

>> Befriending relationships and what they mean to you.

>> Keeping the interest going online and over the phone when befriending

>> Befriending - more than just tea and chat, so many more ways to connect.

>> Befriending by any other name?

If you want to post more about befriending (or anything else) please just write a new post -

Best wishes


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35 Replies

What is befriending?

Sarah_MencapAdministrator in reply to PrincessPT

Hello there

Awesome question - I have asked Diane to answer this first as I think a lot of people are unclear what it is. Diane will be here on Monday so watch out for her reply.

Have a great weekend


Hi, that is a great question and there are so many answers, in fact we are inviting people this week to say what befriending means to them with the hashtag #BefriendingIs..... Basically it is usually when a volunteer meets or visits another person as part of an organisation to have fun, listen, share interests, go for a walk, maybe have a cup of tea or a cold drink to help the person to feel less lonely and isolated. At the moment, when we can't meet in each other's homes, befriending is often taking place via a phone or video call. There are many types of befriending which we will talk about later in the week.

Sarah_MencapAdministrator in reply to BefriendingNetworks


Harry at Mencap has made this awesome video that says a bit more about befriending. Enjoy!



jow2319 in reply to Sarah_Mencap

Love this video Harry :)

Lovely! Harry is such a great amassador for Mencap

Hi all, with so much going online at the moment, how would you keep volunteers engaged?

Hi Rachael, we have lots of member organisations around the country who engage with us on our weekly Q & A sessions and this is a question which often crops up at the moment. Some of the ideas we have shared are making sure that you are having regular support sessions to get their feedback. These can be one to one over the phone, by email or some people do group Zoom calls for mutual support. This will give a volunteer co-ordinator clues and signs that the relationship may be struggling and needs reviewing. Ultimately, make sure they feel valued and supported. Some projects have short term matches, say 6 or 12 months and then move the matches round so both parties are talking to new people. You could do a monthly newsletter for the volunteers where they share ideas for conversations such as sharing their favourite food/music/films or for older befriendees it could be memories of school days, holidays, Christmases. During these uncertain times it is also important to listen to the clients' concerns and try to look for the positives to share whilst taking their worried seriously. I hope this helps.

Thanks Diane, really helpful! Its given me some Ideas :)

Hello, my name is Diane Claridge and I work for Befriending Networks, a national organisation who support befriending projects across the UK by providing training, guidance and advice to befriending projects, large and small across a wide spectrum of service users. As we recognise and raise awareness about the life-changing impact of befriending in reducing social isolation and loneliness and increasing wellbeing across all sectors of society we invite you to celebrate Befriending Week from 1-7 November 2020.

Everyone has experienced loneliness this year in one way or another and sadly this looks set to continue for a while. This common experience makes Befriending Week 2020 an even more significant time to raise awareness and inspire others to get involved.

We are delighted to have been invited to join in with Mencap’s Online Community for this focussed discussion in this important week.

Befriending will mean different things to different people and throughout this year befriending projects have had to adapt and change to meet the need of the people they support which includes the volunteers as well as the beneficiaries. I would love to hear how you have been maintaining connections and also to answer any questions you may have about running a befriending service.

I’d like to start with hearing what your understanding of befriending is. What does befriending mean to you? Can you explain the difference between being a friend and being a befriender? Think about boundaries and protocols and how these would affect a relationship.

Hi Diane,

I think a befriender means someone who is there to support and give guidance but maintains healthy boundaries.

I think you have it in a nutshell Rachael, it's so important that the volunteers know the boundaries of the service and understand that they are there to support the befriendee and offer some guidance and support whilst being careful not to give advice or to take on more than they are supposed to. That is why support and supervision of volunteers is so important.

Hi Diane,

I think Befriending is a friendly face who offers kind and welcoming support. Boundaries are very important to make it clear the difference between befriending and friendship.

Hi Emily, like Rachael you have given a great definition. I love the part about a friendly face, lets hope it's not too long before we can get back to proper face to face befriending. I wonder if you think it makes a difference when the befriendee and befriender cannot see each other's face or expressions? Do you think you can get this across on a phone call? You are right that both parties need to be very clear about the boundaries of the service and how the relationship is not like a 'normal' friendship in that they meet at specific times for specific goals or reasons. I'd love to hear how GigBuddies have coped with the restrictions and the ways you have been able to maintain contact.

Thanks Diane. I think it does make a difference if you can't see their facial expressions and it's hard to get a sense of that over a telephone call. That's why we've found at Gig Buddies that video calls work well as you can see each other's reactions. That being said, a telephone call is far better than nothing at all and you can have have really nice meaningful conversations over the phone.

At Gig Buddies we've been doing regular video calls and phone calls between pairs and run a group video call where we do different games and activities like music bingo, karaoke and lots of quizzes. For those who have limited access to technology we've been sending out things in the post with activities to do such as a Gig Buddies crossword. We've also designed a creative pack which is being sent in the post with lots of games and activities to play with a focus on wellbeing including a pause and reflection activity, a mindfulness walk bingo, 10 day song challenge, chair yoga and lots more.

The restrictions has pushed us to be more creative in communication and befriending and we're constantly finding new ways to encourage friendships during these times.

That's great Emily, I love some of these ideas. I've just been attending our annual conference online this morning and creativity and innovations is definitely one of the positives which people feel has come out of this time. Things which we would not have thought of a year ago. It also opens up the possibilities and potential to reach people who may not be comfortable in face to face activities or have had barriers such as transport previously.

It's a really interesting topic, we have had examples of members of Mencap local groups who previously didn't get involved in small group activities or face to face but when activities went on Zoom they really started to engage and even started to lead sessions and activities and suggest new ideas for future video calls. Their confidence really increased. It's great that there is so many different types of befriending to keep people connected in a way that that suits them.

Fantastic! We’ve had similar experiences with our Gig Buddies in Bradford! Its been easier in a way to get our Buddies to take more of a role in how the project has run.



To get the juices flowing here is a Tweet about Brian in Liverpool about how befriending has helped him gain the confidence to talk to people.

He's had befrienders who share the things he loves, like cycling. He says the bike rides benefit his physical and mental health "enormously."

There are lots of posts about what #BefriendingIs on social media - have a look at more posts here -

Best wishes


Thanks for sharing, lovely story from Brian :)

It was good to read Brian's story and great to hear that through befriending he has increased his confidence.

Check out this lovely video from BBC Radio Humberside showcasing a Gig Buddy pair from Hull and how their friendship has kept on growing despite lockdown!

What a lovely story, really sums up what befriending is and how even lockdown hasn't stopped them from staying in touch. We shared this on our social media too.

I agree, Tommy and Martha's story really does sum up what befriending is. It highlights that they both get a lot from the relationship, I think that's an important message... befriending makes a difference to both of their lives.



Diane has posted here to ask more about befriending relationships and what they mean to you.

What do you think makes a good befriender?

We'd love to hear what you think.



Hello Diane. I'd heard of befriending before but I had got it into my head that it was just for older people. My brother (adult) would love this - how can I find out if there anything near him. I know it might be tricky at the moment (he isn't great on video calls) but it could be something he'd like to do next year. Thanks. Jo

BefriendingNetworksExpert in reply to jow2319

Hi Jo. You could look at the directory on our website or you could contact your local Mencap branch to ask if this is something they offer or are considering starting. You are not alone in thinking of befriending as traditionally for older people. We have many examples however of members who support children and young people, offer inter-generational work or peer support. There are many other words to describe befriending schemes which we will be discussing later in the week.

Hello Jo, some great information from Diane on where to find befriending opportunities. When you are ready to look next year you could also email to assist you look for Mencap local groups and other opportunities.


Isolation is such a big issue for everyone at the moment, but even more so for some people with a LD. The new lockdown is so depressing . I am sure there is a huge demand for this sort of support. Is it something you have to pay for, or is it always done by volunteers?

Hi crazysquirrel (love your cat!) I would say the majority of befriending is carried out by volunteers through charities but there are paid for services out there too. I think if you can find a voluntary service it may work better, as a good volunteer co-ordinator will try to match volunteers and service users based on mutual interests, outlooks and personalities. I only have limited experience of people with a LD but a closes friend has an adult son with a LD who lives in supported living and she has noticed a considerable decline in his confidence since he hasn't been meeting other people. A real indication that any interaction whether face to face or virtually is so important.


Hello everyone

Have you seen Diane's post about keeping the interest going online and over the phone when befriending

This is so important during these difficult times.

We'd love to hear if you have any creative ways to keep in touch.

Best wishes



There is another great post from Diane here:

It's all about all the different types of befriending - loads of great ideas on there.



Love the idea about postcards and letters - not everything has to be online :)

Postcards and letters are a great way of introducing intergenerational work too.

Hi Sarah and all at the Mencap online community. Thank you for letting me host your Befriending Week focused discussions this last week. I have really enjoyed hearing about what your are getting up to around the country, either in groups or as individuals. I hope my posts have given you some food for thought and highlighted what a huge difference being a befriender or having a befriender can make to someone's life. I've loved seeing your social media posts about real, heartwarming stories, especially in the GigBuddies project. There are posts elsewhere on this thread on how to become a befriender but if you are interested in starting a befriending service please take a look at the resources on our website or email me . I look forward to hearing from you, and it has been a real pleasure to work in partnership during this past week. Happy befriending!

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