Launching the Befriending Map of Gaps 2020

Tue 7 Jul 2020

In January 2020 Alex Hempton, a 3rd year Marketing Management student from Edinburgh Napier University, joined the team at Befriending Networks on a 5-month Research & Marketing placement aiming to update the Befriending Map of Gaps.  

The placement turned out a little differently than expected. As responses to Alex’ questionnaire began to arrive from befriending organisations and projects across Scotland, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic began to hit. Despite this he continued with the research and we are now able to launch the Befriending Map of Gaps 2020.  

Findings from the research suggest that there remain significant gaps in befriending provision in Scotland. The variations in local authority areas are also significant with varying levels of provision and varying client groups. Increasing numbers of referrals result in longer waiting lists, leading to stretched services.  

However, since March, much has been changing in the world of befriending. In response to the pandemic, projects have changed from face-to-face and group contact to different forms of remote befriending. Some also have been helping with practical issues such as delivering shopping or collecting prescriptions, all with the need for social distancing in mind. A further change has been an increase in demand for befriending as more people become isolated and lonely. There is evidently a need for continued, and increased, befriending provision and more befriending services to meet the needs of vulnerable and isolated people living in Scotland. In these uncertain times befriending is more important than ever to support those lonely and socially isolated individuals across Scotland. 

Gillian Frame, Chair of Befriending Networks said “I am delighted to see that in the midst of this pandemic, we have been able to support our members as they responded to the huge task to adapt to offering almost exclusively remote/virtual offerings. This report shows just how brilliantly organisations and individuals have risen to the challenge of the levels of increasing isolation and loneliness. I continue to be concerned about the limited access to befriending for some and the differences in availability dependent on location and I look forward to Befriending Networks supporting the wider community as new projects are conceived and begin to bring the benefits that we know befriending can achieve.” 

Many thanks go to Alex Hempton for his hard work and his commitment to this research in these challenging times.