DIABETES UK Cymru has launched a scheme in Carmarthenshire to address a need to support people living with diabetes whose isolation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the success of a Diabetes UK Befriending Circle set up in in 2019, a similar scheme is now being piloted in Wales, where a third of the population lives in rural areas. Some lack public transport and digital connectivity.
Carmarthenshire has been identified as the priority area to pilot the scheme as over 61% of the population are classified as rural. There is also a greater population of over 65s compared to the national average. However, volunteers can apply from anywhere in Wales and will offer support on the phone or by email to people with diabetes in that region.
Dai Williams, National Director at Diabetes UK Cymru said: “Befriending is the right approach because it’s easier for people to offer a listening ear over the phone or by email than to access support in person. Travel times between different locations in Carmarthen can be long and difficult for some. With the added worry of the coronavirus pandemic, it is now more important than ever to ensure vulnerable people stay safe at home but also have the support to reduce the risk of them feeling isolated and alone. This service will benefit both the befriender and the referral by reducing their risks of isolation.”
The Befriending Circle is run by Diabetes UK Cymru’s Volunteering Team and aims to recruit and train between five to 10 befrienders by the end of 2021.
Lucy Snell, Volunteer Development Officer (Wales) said: “We hope to be up and running by late Spring and raise awareness of the work of our charity in Carmarthenshire by providing long term emotional support to people living with diabetes and their carers in a way we have not been able to do before.”
The introduction of the befriender service will be able to offer a friendly conversation with someone who knows what it’s like to live with diabetes, as well as signpost users to local services and support.
More than 209,015 people in Wales are now living with diabetes. This is 8% of the population aged 17 and over – the highest prevalence in the UK. In Hywel Dda University Health Board, around 25,000 people are registered as living with diabetes.