Future of vital service for Gosport elderly in doubt

FRIENDS From left, Christine Wright, Doris Hern and Jean Legg celebrate Doris's 103rd birthday at Thalassa Nursing Home.     Picture: Allan Hutchings (111867-303)

FRIENDS From left, Christine Wright, Doris Hern and Jean Legg celebrate Doris's 103rd birthday at Thalassa Nursing Home. Picture: Allan Hutchings (111867-303)

Portsmouth Labour leader backs plan for four more bank holidays

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A 103-year-old woman could lose a vital befriending service that is in danger of running out of cash.

The support offered by volunteers from Gosport Voluntary Action’s service provides a lifeline for Doris Hern.

But the charity faces an uncertain future when its National Lottery funding runs out at the end of next year.

And centenarian Doris is among up to 150 older people in the Gosport borough who could lose out – unless more financial backing is secured.

The Befriending Service has helped hundreds of socially isolated people by providing a vital link to the outside world since being set up almost a decade ago.

And it is hoped more funding can be found to help plug the gap and allow the service to continue.

Doris, who is blind, celebrated her 103rd birthday yesterday. She lives at Thalassa Nursing Home in Western Way, Alverstoke, Gosport, and started using the Befriending Service six years ago. She is visited by volunteer Christine Wright every week.

She said: ‘It’s just been wonderful for me. She comes every Tuesday. I’m an outdoor girl and I like walking so we go out for a walk and go for a coffee and then walk again to come back. When it’s a bank holiday she takes me the whole day.

‘I love to get out in the fresh air. Funding is needed badly. There are so many people that are housebound that could take advantage of it. They can have telephone talks or people will visit them if they are lonely – it’s the loneliness that people find worst.’

Jean Legg, service co-ordinator, said: ‘All of the volunteers are carefully checked. We are very careful about who we have and we have follow-up contacts and training sessions. A volunteer will then visit a person – it is purely a social visit. It depends what the client is looking for and what the volunteer can do. Some will take a walk down to the shops, others will go clothes shopping. People will go to medical appointments.

‘I have had people who have been at the point of thinking life’s not worth going on with – they have literally been at that very extreme tip. To see them become attached to a volunteer and see how over time they realise how life is worth living – it makes a huge difference. We are trying to keep people upbeat and positive.’

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