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May 14

Silver Line a Developing Project – Based on Ideas from Esther Rantzen

Meeting held at the Friends’ Meeting House in Euston Road, London on the 10th of May 2013.

Approx 120 members from the various London U3As attended. Esther Rantzen spoke/explained for about an hour, then continued more informally in a chat over coffee.

Her idea – The Silver Line  – is a new, confidential and free helpline for older people open 24 hours a day every day of the year. The mission is to provide advice, information and friendship to isolated and vulnerable older people. It is not meant to replicate or compete with the work of  already existing services but to refer older people facing loneliness and isolation to groups and organizations active in their community as well as providing a unique telephone befriending service, staffed by trained volunteers. She has invited  members of the U3A in the first place to spread the word but also because she thinks the U3A already does excellent work for the retired generation, She invited suggestions for further improvement of the plan  and hopes that some members will volunteer to become telephone friends.

Silver Line friends will work in pairs for safeguarding and will make booked weekly calls to those requesting their friendship service. They are also planning conference calls with groups linked by shared interests and facilitated by a Silver Line volunteer.

The first pilot was launched in December 2012 in Manchester and the North West. So far they have already received 2000 calls with around 350 people requesting regular weekly calls form Silver Line friends. There have been some 20 transfers or referrals to Action on Elder Abuse or Social Services for safeguarding. They have extended the duration of the pilot and its area of operation to the North East with a regional launch in Newcastle in June. The National Launch is planned for November  with wide media coverage. They hope to be available to every older person  in the U.K. –who needs them – in time for Christmas 2013. At present the free helpline is 0800 328 888 (too many 8s) so they are thinking  of changing it to 0800 708090.

The Silver Line is based at Minerva House, 42, Wigmore Street W1U 2RY, generously donated by Minerva Plc. Any offers of  support can be sent to this address.

Esther Rantzen CBE is the chairman.

The Board of Trustees includes:

Deputy Chairman – Colin Wagman FCA

Jane Ashcroft, The Anchor Trust

Chris Belcher, Slicitors for the Elderly

Paul Burstow MP

Lady Susan Chinn CBE

Gary Fitzgerald, Action on Elder Abuse

Professor Patrick Geoghegan OBE

Dr. Alex McMinn MBE, U3A

Su Sayer CBE, United Response