Befrienders recognised by Parliament

The awards ceremony at Dalziel St Andrew's
The awards ceremony at Dalziel St Andrew's

Volunteers From Motherwell and Bellshill who enrich the lives of older people who feel isolated in their own homes have been applauded for their efforts in the Scottish Parliament.

Cross-party MSPs have signed a motion which recognises the “inspirational” work of the Befriend Motherwell and Befriend in Bellshill projects, which have received £37,500 and £36,890 from the Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund respectively.

Lonely people who benefit from the service in Motherwell, run by Dalziel St Andrew’s Parish Church, are invited to go for coffee, browse a garden centre and attend a social event to increase their confidence and mobility.

At the Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre in Bellshill, befrienders are trained to enable elderly and disabled people to access services and help them live more independent lives.

The motion, which has been backed by 17 Conservative, Labour and SNP MSPs, was lodged by Central Scotland list MSP Margaret Mitchell.

Margaret attended an award ceremony, held as part of Befriending Week, at Dalziel St Andrew’s last week which she said highlighted the “fantastic work” of volunteers.

Her motion expressed “gratitude for the difference” they make to people’s lives.

Margaret said: “The befriending projects currently taking place in Motherwell and Bellshill are inspirational initiatives that not only benefit isolated members of the community but also the volunteers themselves.

“I was therefore delighted to be able to lodge a motion in the Scottish Parliament, highlighting these fantastic projects.

“This was in an effort to alert and ensure both fellow MSPs and the wider public, are informed about the work of befrienders.”

Ms Mitchell’s motion also highlighted the Befriending Network’s social media ‘thunderclap’ awareness raising initiative and she said it was “really encouraging” to hear that more than half a million people were reached.

Go For It Fund aims to encourage creative ways of working, which develop the life and mission of the local church, that are transformative for both communities and congregations.

Established in 2012, it has awarded nearly £3 million to date and currently supports around 120 projects across Scotland.

Shirley Grieve, manager of the Go For It Fund, said she and her staff were delighted to be playing a part in funding important work and promoting it across Scotland in congregations and communities.

She said: “It is crucial that politicians and policy makers in our country become more aware of the contribution that faith based groups are making to national and local outcomes.

Alex Baird, chairman of the trustees of Befriend Motherwell, says the project enjoyed great support from local MPs, MSPs and councillors.

He said: “Mrs Mitchell has shown a particular interest in our work and we were delighted when she accepted our invitation to present the awards and join us for lunch on this special occasion during Befriending Week.”

Robert Piper, development officer at BeFriend in Bellshill, added: “Our staff team and volunteers are always pleased by the support and encouragement we receive from Mrs Mitchell and other elected members.

“Our project started in 2006 with grants from the Go For It fund and is currently funded by the Big Lottery Fund Investing In Communities.

“We know our work is making a difference for the elderly and disabled people in our community.

“This recognition from the Scottish Parliament gives us the motivation to continue our work that is tackling problems of isolation and loneliness at a grass roots level.”