A project to tackle loneliness pioneered by Shropshire Wildlife Trust is entering a new phase, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund. Feed the Birds project involves training volunteers to visit people who are experiencing social isolation, to install and refill bird food containers and chat about garden wildlife.
Following a successful pilot project from 2016 to 2018 when Shropshire Wildlife Trust trained and matched 12 volunteers with clients who were referred via Community and Care co-ordinators based in GP practices across, recent lottery funding enables them to move on to phase 2. Clients are assessed as being lonely or socially isolated and as a result their health is deteriorating.
Thanks to National Lottery players, Feed the Birds will reach a further 100 beneficiaries, matching them with 100 volunteers who, following training, will visit once a week. Training and registering of volunteers is done at a one day event and all volunteers are DBS checked and require two references. Once trained, Shropshire Wildlife Trust look for a suitable match with a client who lives within easy walking , cycling or bus journey. Volunteers visit once a week to top up the feeder which is provided by the project, and to check in with the client and chat to them about what they have seen and how they are feeling generally.
Clients can be referred by any organisation or agency. Once a referral is received, the Feed the Birds project officer will arrange to visit the prospective client to go through a short assessment to see that they meet the criteria. Criteria is based on the Office of National Statistics (ONS) measure of loneliness and takes the form of a short questionnaire. If a client meets the criteria, Shropshire Wildlife Trust will find a volunteer to match with them. It can take a while depending on geographical location.
Volunteers undergo quarterly supervision sessions in Shrewsbury. This is important to enable support and a safe and confidential space to share experiences and to deal with any problems. The project officer is available at other times.
The Trust is looking for volunteers who would like to be part of the project and is also taking referrals from organisations that come across people who are lonely or socially isolated.
Diane Monether said “This is a great opportunity for anyone who is a bird lover and wants to share their passion for feeding the birds with others. We will also be taking Feed the Birds into Morris Care homes and working with Royal Shrewsbury Hospital with the aim of bringing people closer to nature through watching birds”.
Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Diane Monether (01743 284271) or email [email protected] For details of our next training session click here.