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Be-a-friend - Companionship with Paws

 

The objective of Be-a-friend is to form a trusting relationship over time in order to reduce loneliness and to provide a relationship where none currently exists.

Be-a-friend addresses loneliness in older people in Pembrokeshire who love dogs and miss the contact with four paws in their home. This is achieved through visits from a Be-a-friend team who provide much needed companionship. By combining compassionate volunteers with their engaging dogs, this partnership can address the challenge loneliness brings to our community.

Loneliness can be profound and wide-ranging, considered by many to be one of the largest public health challenges we face. Be-a-friend will make a difference to older people in our community who are lonely. According to the latest National Survey for Wales (2024): almost three quarters of people aged over 65 (72%) report feeling lonely ‘sometimes’, while 10% of older people in Wales– an estimated 91,000 people – feel ‘consistently’ lonely.

 

A visit from a dog into a person’s home can:

 

  • Reduce isolation and loneliness

  • Develop self-confidence 

  • Improve wellbeing 

  • A supportive and consistent service

  • Increase the flow of feel-good hormones

  • Reduce stress and lower blood pressure 

  • A welcome routine, something to look forward to

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We must remember that the love for a dog will never end, so a visiting Be-a-friend volunteer with their Be-a-friend dog can make a difference to older persons who are lonely and unable to care for a dog anymore, or have lost a dog recently.

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To make a local agency referral please click on the button below and submit the form

How Be-a-friend works

 

Be-a-friend teams provide informal, social support either with fixed-term or open-ended visits. Visits should alleviate the Be-a-friendee’s feeling of loneliness through the positive engagement of the Be-a-friend team.

 

The Be-a-friend team should not take the responsibilities of a Carer.

 

Be-a-friend take referrals from, and work closely with local agencies to identify those in most need, with their consent, who would benefit from our service. The referral process includes carefully matching a Be-a-friend team to a Be-a-friendee by the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator works with and supports the Be-a-friend team and arranges meetings for a set time or on a regular basis at the Be-a-friendee’s home.

A match will have a trial period (e.g. three or four meetings), with a high level of support from the co-ordinator including reviews to allow both the Be-a-friend team and the Be-a-friendee to comment on the suitability of the match. Be-a-friend teams will be supported in their role by the co-ordinator and head office through communication platforms, training, review, and feedback processes.

 

Be-a-friend follows on from the support provided by Dogs on your Doorstep that Cariad Pet Therapy ran alongside the Therapy Dog visits. Be-a-friend is a stand-alone service, initially funded by the Shared Prosperity Fund from Pembrokeshire County Council.

Be-a-friend Visits, Beginnings and Endings

Be-a-friend visits fall into one of three categories - Fixed-term, Open-ended, or Successive befriending relationships

Fixed-term Be-a-friending

Where the Be-a-friendee, Be-a-friend team, and coordinator agree visits for a set period.

 

Advantages:

  • neither the Be-a-friend team nor the Be-a-friendee is likely to feel rejection

  • easier to make endings seem like a celebration of achievement rather than a failure

 

Open-ended Be-a-friending

Where the Be-a-friending relationship continues for as long as the Be-a-friendee, their family/carers (if appropriate), the Be-a-friend team, and Be-a-friend agree that visits should continue with regular reviews in place.

 

Advantages:

  • the relationship can develop slowly, building trust without any time pressures

  • Be-a-friendee’s who are likely to continue to be socially isolated receive ongoing support i.e. those who are housebound

Successive Be-a-friending

Where Be-a-friendees receive visits from different Be-a-friend teams.

 

Advantages:

  • increased social contact

  • avoidance of dependence

  • appropriate for Be-a-friend teams who cannot commit to open ended Be-a-friending

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Matching

 

Involves deciding which Be-a-friend team will work with which Be a-friendee based on the coordinator’s assessment of the suitability of each person to form a relationship with the other. 

 

The aims of careful matching are to:

  • ensure that relationships are given the best opportunity to become established

  • meet the needs and expectations of all parties

 

Beginnings

 

The way in which a relationship starts sets the tone for what may follow. Both the Be-a-friend volunteer and the Be-a-friendee know there is the potential for rejection and both parties are likely to be anxious or nervous at the beginning. Be-a-friend is sensitive to this and monitor how relationships develop and provide necessary support.

 

  • Be-a-friend recognise Be-a-friend volunteers and Be-a friendees may require more support early in the relationship

  • Be-a-friend regularly monitor visits to ensure they should continue

Endings

 

Well-managed endings are extremely important for the Be-a-friend team and Be-a-friendee. Dealt with appropriately and positively reduces the risk of damaging the good work achieved and avoids feelings of loss, sadness, grief, fear, failure, and guilt.

 

  • Endings are an opportunity to celebrate success, especially where goals have been achieved

  • Be-a-friend recognise the risks associated with endings and support Be-a-friend teams and Be-a-friendees through this process

  • Be-a-friend can arrange bereavement counselling where required

Boundaries

 

Boundaries in relationships are limits which everyone sets (unconsciously or consciously) which govern what people share of themselves, what they do together and how they manage their interactions at home, work and socially.

 

In Be-a-friending, well-managed, explicit boundaries are fundamental to good Be-a-friending practice and should be seen as a positive concept rather than a restrictive barrier.

 

They help to:

  • ensure the protection and safety of all parties

  • establish a safe, dependable setting for developing a be-a friending relationship based on trust

  • define where all parties stand on issues of confidentiality, conduct and working limits

  • avoid dependency and attachment

  • prevent the breakdown of relationships

 

Examples of boundaries: Personal details, Confidentiality, Involvement of friends and relatives, Gifting, Finance, Alcohol and Intimate relationships.

Our Be-a-friend teams

We have recently recruited 9 new volunteers and their temperament assessed dogs. They have all received training in the role, an enhanced DBS check, safeguarding training, confidentiality training and have an in-date ID and branded clothing.

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For further information on the service, please contact the Be-a-friend Co-ordinator Leasa Pendell at:

Be-a-friend@cariadpettherapy.co.uk  - please note Leasa works part-time so there may be a delay in response times.

 

You can also call the Cariad Pet Therapy Head Ofiice on 01437 723628 for any general enquiries.

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