Loneliness Awareness Week: Scottish Government Minister for Equalities attends Befriending Networks breakfast.

Thu 13 Jun 2024

Kaukab Stewart MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Equalities joined Befriending Networks on Thursday 13th June for breakfast with some of our members. Befriending services in the Edinburgh area came along to a networking session, where the Minister attended with a listening ear focused on her responsibilities for social isolation and loneliness.

This year’s theme of Loneliness Awareness Week is “Random Acts of Connection” but during our time together we made very purposeful moments of connection to share experiences about loneliness in Scotland. The Minister listened intently to staff, volunteers, and service users from eight different befriending services in the city.

Ms Stewart opened the event and spoke about the compassion provided by befrienders, she recognised that isolation and loneliness can be felt in any part of Scotland, and that she was fully committed in her new role to deepen her understanding of the issue and ensure that the Government takes measures to tackle loneliness.

Our members spent time chatting with the Minister in small groups, as she heard about the value befriending has for young people from a trusted adult from inTandem/YMCA Edinburgh and Space for Youth Befriending. Befriending match Catherine and Tracey were in attendance, and shared that they had spent Christmas Day together and shared many new experiences exploring their local area. A common theme of the conversations was about volunteering and Alison, a volunteer at Vintage Vibes, recognised the reciprocal benefits of volunteering on loneliness, connection and community by saying: “I get more than I give out of volunteering!” As Minister for Equalities, Ms Stewart also reflected on those who may be more at risk of loneliness following her conversation with representatives from Deaf Action. 

Our CEO, Susan Hunter said after the event:

“Befriending is really important to preventing and addressing loneliness because it is all about relationships. It’s about the human connection between two people, and all the unexpected things that come from a befriending relationship. Today we have heard of newfound confidence, having new conversations, being opened up to new experiences, but also having someone that can be relied on and trusted.  We’ve heard directly from volunteers about the joy that befriending brings, and to witness the power and transformative impact of befriending.”

Thank you to everyone who came along. Read the Scottish Government’s strategy on social isolation and loneliness: Social isolation and loneliness: Recovering our Connections 2023 to 2026 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Why not find a befriending service near you and explore volunteering as a befriender?