Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

New telephone befriending scheme

A red telephone
Telephone befriending schemes support people in their own homes

Phone company TalkTalk is offering free weekly telephone chats to customers.

The five minute calls will be made by TalkTalk staff who've volunteered and the topic would be up to the customer.

The We'll Call You scheme is aimed at older people who live alone. About 250,000 of TalkTalk's 4.2 million customers are in this category.

Mark Schmid from TalkTalk said the service would "meet a need", but promised not to try to sell services or give advice or counselling.

He said: "If they call us and have a medical complaint or something, we can't help them. What we will have is a list of people we can refer them to who might be able to help".

TalkTalk said it was launching the scheme in order to give something back and would never use calls to sell products or services.

Telephone befriending schemes are already available nationally and locally through organisations such as Age Concern, who said befriending services were "very valuable".

However, they expressed concern that "five minutes is not a huge amount of time" and it was important that volunteers were fully trained.

Broadcaster and writer Lynne Franks told the BBC that she thought many people were isolated and needed connection, but "getting older people to understand they've got strangers ringing them up regularly to talk could be confusing".

TalkTalk customers who want to join the We'll Call You scheme can ring the company or sign up online.



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