Like so many things affected by Covid-19, our work with Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) to support those in need had to be reshaped during the pandemic. As soon as the first UK lockdown was announced in March 2020, our volunteers were required to stop hospital visits and were instead given the opportunity to become a ‘befriender’ – making calls to vulnerable people in need of human connection during these unprecedented times.
In Spring 2020, 2.6 million people in the UK reported feeling lonely "often" or "always", according to the Office of National Statistics.1 The profound impact that something as simple as a phone call could have became immediately apparent, and so our telephone befriending programme was born, focusing on connecting people who can have regular, informal catch ups. We have since been working with three charities – RVS, Independent Age and Carers First – to provide this service, which builds on our existing support to vulnerable customers. Recognising that the majority of individuals needing our support have had their social activities cancelled as a result of lockdowns, we were keen to act quickly. Working closely with the three charities, we were able to complete the comprehensive safeguarding and vetting procedures within a week.
Large, public-facing companies are required to show that they’re taking responsibility for building a better society. But Toby Wyithe, Corporate Social Responsibility Business Partner at Legal & General, says that in this case that’s not why we do it. “Yes, there is a link to the elderly demographic because it’s our customer base, but I genuinely believe we do it not just because it’s our responsibility, but because we care passionately about supporting vulnerable people in our communities on an individual level.”