A SCHEME which was set up in a bid to combat loneliness and isolation in and around Cockermouth is proving a big success.

Linking Lives is a national charity with more than 30 befriending projects throughout the country. The Cockermouth group - the first one in Cumbria - was set up in October.

The scheme was launched by Churches Together in the Cockermouth Area (CTiCA) and has the backing of Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council, Cockermouth Rotary Club and the Cinnamon Trust.

Operations manager Terry Peate said they had been hoping to enlist 20 volunteers within the first year. They swiftly exceeded that number and are now aiming to recruit a total of 40 by Christmas.

The volunteers have been visiting various people, mainly older members of the community, in their homes on a weekly basis.

These people have been referred by families and various groups, including Castlegate and Derwent Surgery and churches.

"We are thrilled with how well it's going, it's really taken off," said Terry.

"The need out there is massive. Some of the people are housebound and do not get out so are really enjoying the visits.

"One of them said the link was like her best friend and had made such a difference to her life."

Terry and co-ordinator Sue Gorman visit people in their homes before linking them with a volunteer.

"It's heart-rending when we go on visits and ask people how often they feel lonely and they say 'all of the time'," he said.

They recently did a presentation at the town surgery, to doctors and nurses.

"They were very very positive about the scheme and could think of many people this would benefit," he said.

The group also signposts people to other groups which can support them, such as Age UK or Growing Well.

"We're all trying to work together," said Terry.

The volunteers, who are all DBS checked and trained, have also benefitted from the experience. "The feedback has been very positive, they are meeting interesting people with fascinating stories to tell," said Terry.

Terry and Sue would like to hear from anyone who can provide financial support, also those interested in volunteering or being visited.

"There is growing evidence of the positive impact that befriending can bring to client’s ability to stay in their own home for longer which has benefits for the clients themselves as well as social care providers," said Terry.

For more details go to: www.linkinglives.uk/cockermouth,

contact cockermouth@linkinglives.uk or 07957 515140.