NEIL Hamilton, Leader of UKIP Wales and AM for Mid & West Wales, is backing a call to recruit volunteers to tackle loneliness.

Mr Hamilton, Party Spokesman for Culture, is supporting The Royal Air Force Association who are seeking more helpers for its befriending service across Carmarthenshire.

Mr Hamilton said:

“The befriending service is a wonderful initiative which pairs volunteers with members of the RAF community who are struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation

“I often speak in the Senedd about the plight of our veterans as not enough is done to support them so I welcome any moves which will help to improve their lives.

“This particular scheme is an excellent idea as loneliness is one of the most common concerns expressed by veterans.

“I would urge anyone who is over 18 and has some time on their hands to volunteer.  Not only would they be doing a public service but, I am sure, they would find it very rewarding to become involved in this way.”

With 170,000 RAF veterans dealing with issues of isolation, and 85,000 of them coping specifically with feelings of loneliness, the service is a valuable source of companionship to members of the RAF family.

The Association’s Volunteer Manager, Katharine Lord, said they were looking for volunteers from all backgrounds.

She said: “Befrienders can play such an important role in somebody’s life and while there is no single type of person we look for, a good befriender is someone that is caring and empathetic, able to build a rapport with people, is reliable and a good listener.”

Volunteers support befriendees in a number of ways such as popping round for a cup of tea, researching local community groups where the befriendee could potentially meet new friends, or simply being at the end of the phone for a chat.

It’s not just the befriendee who benefits from the service. The benefits for volunteers include learning new skills, building confidence, meeting new people and the opportunity to give back to their community. Those who successfully complete training will also achieve the AIM Awards Level 1 Award in Befriending qualification.

The campaign is supported by Cllr David Jenkins, the Carmarthenshire Armed Forces Champion, who said: “As a former member of the Royal Air Force, I am pleased to promote the befriending service here in Carmarthenshire. It is essential that we support those who have, and are serving within our Armed Forces to deal with social isolation.”

The training given to volunteers is a one-day course, run locally, which covers everything volunteers need to know to be an effective befriender.

To find out more, search for ‘befriender’ roles on the RAF Association website, call 0800 018 2361 or email volunteers@rafa.org.uk.

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