Charity braced for ‘avalanche’ of calls from Leeds’s lonely

Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen pictured at the Leeds University Business School in April 2014 Picture by Simon Hulme
Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen pictured at the Leeds University Business School in April 2014 Picture by Simon Hulme
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A charity which helps those in the grip of loneliness is bracing itself for a “avalanche” of calls over Christmas from lonely people in Leeds.

The Silver Line has already seen numbers swell in the run up to the festive season, with 250 more calls from Leeds in November compared to 2014 - 1,470. The helpline, which operates around the clock, expects to see double the number of calls over Christmas and New Year.

It is desperately in need of more volunteers in Yorkshire to help man its phone line, act as befrienders by regularly calling an older person in need of company, and write letters in its penpal scheme.

The Silver Line was founded by ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, who said: “Like many of our Silver Line callers, I know what loneliness feels like - and Christmas is especially difficult if you are on your own. When my late husband Desmond Wilcox died, I tried to make our family Christmas as joyous as it had always been, but it was impossible.

“In the words of one of our callers, Christmas Day became ‘just another day I had to get through’. We can make this Christmas happier and the start of a much happier New Year.”

Silver Line caller Joseph, 81, from Yorkshire, is often confined to his home for health reasons. He has been speaking to his Silver Line Friend for almost two years.

“I’m a Yorkshire man and she is an Essex girl and we like different things, but that doesn’t matter. We get on like a house on fire and she says she likes my sense of humour.

“I know I can’t say she is my family, but she is like family to me. I really enjoy our calls.”

Community development worker Alison Eagle, 53, of Leeds, has been making friendship calls to a woman in her 90s through the Silver Line for the last two years.

She got involved after her grandmother died, as she knew the difference their regular chats over the phone made to her life.

Speaking about the woman she chats to, Ms Eagle said: “Because she can’t get out on her own her, she spends a lot of time at home just sitting, and she felt like she didn’t speak to anyone. I don’t see it as volunteering anymore, she has become a friend.”

To find out more about volunteering, visit www.thesilverline.org.uk

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