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1st October is International Older People’s Day so to celebrate let’s take a look at one of the ways Royal Voluntary Service has forged friendships since the 1970s.
Since the 1970s Royal Voluntary Service has been running Good Companion services across the country. They may have changed their name over the years including Good Neighbours and Befriending but the premise has remained the same, to alleviate loneliness and encourage people to help others in their local community.
In Cheshire the scheme tried to get off the ground in Stockport in 1971, the County Borough Organiser has appeared to spend the first few months trying to find volunteers to take on the scheme. However she succeeded in recruiting volunteers for Meals on Wheels instead. Later on the organiser asked to be excused form the piolet as many women in the area were already being “Good Neighbours” under visiting or local council services. This was the case for many areas across the country.
Other areas of Cheshire however appeared to have more success with the scheme, Alsager reported that “At Present a list of old people in need of visits is being drawn up and many members have undertaken to visit.” By 1972 Sale WRVS were also making progress with the Good Companion Scheme and requested 30 record cards in March for members visiting older people under the scheme. By 1973 both schemes were official with another starting in Congleton, Alderly Edge appeared to have an unofficial visiting scheme for residents in a local nursing home and Ramsbottom were interested in starting a scheme for the disabled. So despite the initial hiccups Cheshire really started to embrace the scheme in the mid-1970s.
In the 1980s and 1990s these services were often referred to as Visiting throughout Cheshire including Congleton, Chester, Crew and Nantwich. In June 1980 it was reported that Nantwich had a member who visited an “old lady every evening winter and summer to fill her hot water bottle for a bit of comfort”. Once again proving no job was too big or too small for WRVS.
Over the years this service has allowed people to stay independent and continue to live in their own homes. Volunteers often escort people on outings, go shopping, collect pensions, send post, mend clothes, change lightbulbs, cook, and do other odd jobs around the home as well as taking time to talk to the person they were visiting. Today volunteers are still making friends in the North, running Good Neighbour Schemes including the Brightlife Buddy Scheme in Cheshire West.