PhoneFriends provide a telephone befriending service for RMBF beneficiaries and supporters who are socially isolated or excluded. They may be living alone or in family circumstances which have led to them being isolated.

PhoneFriends offer a listening ear – they provide support and encouragement when needed through regular friendly chats on the phone, giving their partners the individual attention that might be lacking in their lives. The PhoneFriends scheme is not an advice or counseling service.

The role of RMBF PhoneFriends

PhoneFriends provide emotional support to their partners at a time of increased distress, offering them the chance to talk in confidence to a caring person. They call their partner on an agreed regular basis, working within the policy and practice framework of the RMBF PhoneFriend Service.

What is expected of PhoneFriends

  • To actively participate in initial and ongoing training activities, networking events and meetings with the Volunteer Programme Manager (VPM)
  • To work with the beneficiary PhoneFriend and provide support, guidance and encouragement, respecting their confidentiality at all times
  • To establish and maintain appropriate boundaries
  • To inform the RMBF of any concerns about the beneficiary PhoneFriend
  • To participate in regular evaluation of the RMBF PhoneFriend Service

Attributes of a successful PhoneFriend

RMBF PhoneFriends come from a diverse mix of backgrounds. However, there are a few personal attributes that PhoneFriends share which help them succeed in their role. These attributes include being:

  • a good listener and communicator
  • objective and non-judgemental
  • able to demonstrate empathy, care and concern to the beneficiary PhoneFriend
  • able to relate to new people without prejudice
  • professional, confidential and caring

Training and development

As part of their induction, all PhoneFriends will attend an induction workshop with the VPM to discuss the contents of this handbook and to explore the PhoneFriend role further.

Ongoing support for RMBF PhoneFriends

The RMBF training programme aims to develop and build on volunteers’ skills and knowledge.

The current three sessions look at:

  1. Mental health awareness and basic mental health first aid (delivered by MIND)
  2. Personal boundaries (delivered by Shelter)
  3. Bereavement awareness (delivered by CRUSE)

RMBF PhoneFriends also receive comprehensive support and advice from the VPM on request. Regular evaluation of the ‘PhoneFriendships’ are carried out to ensure both parties are comfortable and happy with the partnership.

The VPM will arrange an annual networking lunch for RMBF PhoneFriends. This is an ideal opportunity to share experiences and discuss any issues that might have arisen. From time to time the VPM will arrange informal regional meetings where RMBF PhoneFriends will have the chance to meet other members.

On the afternoon of the RMBF’s AGM there is also a Volunteers’ Meeting. PhoneFriends meet fellow voluntees, as well as Trustees and staff of the RMBF, and there is ample opportunity for views and problems to be shared and discussed.

How the PhoneFriend scheme works

RMBF PhoneFriends call from their home telephone (preferably a land-line), using 141 or the mobile server’s equivalent to conceal their number. The pattern and length of calls is agreed in advance between the two telephone partners.

Matching up PhoneFriends with their partners

The VPM makes the initial contact with the potential PhoneFriend to explain about the service. If the partner is a RMBF beneficiary the VPM will highlight that this is separate from any financial support being provided by the RMBF. The role of the RMBF PhoneFriend is not the same as an Area Visitor, and therefore does not involve providing a report for the GA Committee. During this informal chat, the VPM will ask about their general interest and hobbies to help the RMBF match them with potential RMBF telephone partners.

Forward to Part 2: Communication skills

PhoneFriend Handbook index