AN ARMY of volunteers are helping to combat loneliness and social isolation among the elderly in Barrow.

Age UK's Barrow and District branch has seen a surge in demand since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic amid rising concerns of how lonely elderly residents are coping.

Volunteers have been busy delivering food parcels and offering a listening ear to people living alone.

The organisation has had 81 residents take up offers of a befriending service.

Vickie Martin, of Age UK Barrow and District, said: “We initially set up the support hub that was at the Living Well Centre at the top of Duke Street in conjunction with St Mary’s Hospice. We never expected the demand at first.

“People were worried about how they would get their food shopping and collect medication. We were really inundated and quickly developed a working relationship with St Mary’s Hospice.”

After St Mary’s Hospice reopened its inpatient unit, Barrow Borough Council assisted in operating the phones, before a Cumbria support network was set up on Carlisle.

Vickie said: “We decided that we wanted to keep support at a local level and moved back into our building and we started to take calls back in our Barrow office - and we’re delivering food parcels to those who can't get out through shielding and self-isolating.

“It’s been very busy and really successful and we’ve helped lots and lots of people.

“We were a lifeline prior to Covid anyway because we provided a lot of social groups and activities.

“We run a telephone befriending service. We’re giving them a call and making sure that they are OK. It is just a friendly chat to see how they’re managing as well as taking a lot of new referrals from external organisations for people who are really struggling or have any friends or family.

“It’s very lonely and lots of people who are older and shielding have not been out the house since the beginning of March so they’re the one ones who’re really struggling.”

To get involved call: 01229 831425