Empowerment’s BESS service is entering its final stretch of an 18month contract and with this we look back on what has been an extraordinary year and the people who made it happen.
Working with those living in Blackpool who are most isolated, BESS does not look or feel like a service. The reason being that most referrals are for people who have had many experiences with services in Blackpool and are now choosing to disengage. Partly because of restrictions that are in place with engagement and partly because most are not person centered or flexible to that individual’s needs.
The NHS deem people who use their services frequently as High Intensity Users or frequent fliers. These are people who have no option but to call on services due to feelings of loneliness through social isolation.
BESS takes the approach of listening and taking Empowerment’s vision of journeying alongside this person. So what does that actually mean? It could be sending out care packages, reading books together, going for a coffee or a walk. Its listening to what the person has to say and building the support around that.
During the pandemic BESS BUDDIES has been set up to help people who have been forced into social distancing and isolation. Going from just 17 clients to 100 in one week it has been a whirlwind of referrals for those who need it the most.
Volunteers (BUDDIES) are matched up with people who are referred and sometimes the volunteers get just as much support as the people they call.
BESS BUDDIE Mel says: ” I was motivated to volunteer for BESS Buddies because I had a bit of spare time and felt that helping to combat loneliness and social isolation is so important, particularly at the moment. I could never have imagined how quickly I would start to feel like part of the Empowerment community. I’ve learned that volunteering really is a two-way street and I get so much out of the support and friendship of the lovely people I chat to”
BESS BUDDIE Rauni says: “I am so proud to be a volunteer for the BESS service. It is invaluable to anyone who feels isolated and lonely. Our friendly, helpful and supportive voice can make a massive difference to someone who is struggling.”
Continuing the social activities, albeit online, long standing volunteer John has been helping to host a weekly quiz, attend coffee mornings and make calls as part of BESS BUDDIES. He says: “It could be just a 15 min chat for you but it could be a ray of sunshine for the person you have spoken to, to know that they are in someone else’s thoughts and not alone. It’s not what you say to people that gains their confidence, it’s how you listen to them.”
So what does the future hold for BESS? The answer is we don’t know. Funding ends in March and like many funded services we are hoping to secure more as the winter pressures are starting there is an increase in referrals as well as the CoronaKindness initiative uncovering (like the first wave) more people who need BESS support.