A CHARITY offering a vital lifeline to vulnerable older people is expanding its service in Gwent after receiving lottery funding to reach those in rural communities most at risk from isolation and loneliness.

Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people through face to face contact.

The volunteer led charity organises monthly tea party events for small groups of elderly people, aged 75 and over, to provide a regular and vital friendship link every month.

Contact the Elderly currently supports 700 older people across Wales but has ambitions to increase this number substantially.

The charity has confirmed new groups will be launched across Wales in various locations, including Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

There are currently 83 tea party groups in existence across Wales supported by over 800 volunteers which include drivers, party hosts and project coordinators.

The tea parties are held by different hosts each month but the drivers who pick up the guests remain the same meaning that over months and years, companionship can turn in to valuable and life changing friendships.

Now the charity is looking for new volunteers to help deliver the new services. People can volunteer in a variety of roles including:

• Group coordinators – Volunteer coordinators ensure everything runs smoothly each week. These volunteers organise the monthly tea parties by liaising with hosts and drivers so that everyone is clear about dates, timings and venues.

• Drivers – Volunteer drivers collect the same older guest/guests each month and take them to a different local host’s home where they can enjoy the afternoon tea party with fellow volunteers and guests. All you need is a driver’s licence, valid insurance and access to a car.

• Hosts – Volunteer hosts provide a warm welcome and a simple afternoon tea lasting between two and three hours for six to eight guests and three or four volunteer drivers. Volunteer hosts are more than welcome to involve friends and family in the tea parties and events often have two or three generations join in the fun. The only essentials for hosts are a big teapot, a downstairs/ground floor toilet and easy access to the house. Seating for up to eight older people is also essential. Hosts normally commit to one or two tea parties a year, but this can be increased if volunteers like.

As well as looking for new volunteers, the charity is also keen to raise awareness of the new services on offer to potential older guests that could benefit from the scheme. Contact the Elderly encourage people to let older neighbours, customers, family and friends know about the service and that they could have something to look forward to each month.

Siân Llewellyn, head of services for Wales at Contact the Elderly commented: “Our tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for our older guests who often have little or no contact with family or friends. They bring people of all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month. The lottery funding we’ve recently been awarded is a great opportunity to further our reach across Wales and ensure more vulnerable older people have connections and relationships with people in the community.

“We’re looking forward to hearing from prospective volunteers and guests living in Monmouthshire and would encourage people that know about us and the work of Contact the Elderly to speak to older people in their communities about coming along to our tea parties.”

For more information on attending upcoming events, or for volunteer enquires, please call 0800 716543 or visit www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk.