Now that the project has launched we are working hard to involve as many of our existing Volunteers within the Befriending and Advocacy services to be part of this project. Befriending training is held every month and Volunteers from across all 3 Boroughs who are interested in becoming befrienders attend this training.

The befriending service matches volunteers with older people following an assessment of the older person’s likes and dislikes and what they want from befriending. All new Clients to the project are asked if they have an Advance Decision and/or Power of Attorney and if they do not basic information is given and they are asked if they would like to know more and/or if they would like Advocacy support to help them complete one or both. Information gathered so far from this process has highlighted that the term ‘End of Life’ can in itself be off putting. Consequently, we have decided to change our approach to how we spread the word about people’s Rights & Choices by referring to the situation as being one in which they are unable to communicate their views and wishes.

The Befriending service is currently in the process of devising a life book/ story which Befrienders can complete with the older person they visit. The idea is that it will include the person’s history, family and friends, likes and dislikes, employment, hobbies and practical aspects such as who their utility providers are and who they bank with. This will be an important document which we hope will be used in the event that the older person finds themselves unable to communicate an important piece of information about themselves. The book will also give the older the opportunity to include their advance decision and/ or Power of Attorney.  It is hoped that the opportunity to complete a life book with a Befriender will be taken up by the majority of the older people who access our service and that we will be able to provide information and support about End of Life Rights to more older people.

The majority of people who contact Age UK East London about becoming a Volunteer want to be a Befriender. Interest in becoming an Advocacy Volunteer is, however, increasing and training for new Advocates will be taking place in February 2013. Age UK East London currently provides advocacy in Newham and Hackney and existing volunteers within these two Boroughs have been given the opportunity to attend the End of Life Rights training which is being run later this month. 4 Volunteers have said they would like to attend the training and 3 will be attending later this month.

Once the End of Life Rights Advocacy training has been undertaken Advocates and Befrienders will begin to provide more information and support to the Older People they work with. We are also in the process of arranging a workshop in a resource centre in Newham attended by older and disabled Newham residents. The workshop will give those who attend the opportunity to find out more about their rights and to receive support to complete an Advance Decision and/or Lasting Power of Attorney (Health & Welfare) should they want to.

Vicky Gadd, Advocacy & Befriending Team Leader