b:Friend

796. Mike Niles (Doncaster)

Mike Niles, from Doncaster, is the founder of ‘b:Friend’, a charity reducing the loneliness of the elderly population in his local area.

According to research from ‘Age UK’, Doncaster is in the UK’s highest 0.2% for social deprivation, with a quarter of its 22,000 elderly people classified as ‘chronically lonely’. Since launching this year, Mike has received volunteer applications from over 220 residents and has 60 attendees at each of the three weekly social clubs he organises across the city. As social contact is associated with a reduced likelihood of the onset of dementia and depression, Mike coordinates with local GPs to find particularly isolated elderly individuals.  His ambition is to match 50 volunteers with an elderly neighbour for weekly one-to-one sessions by the end of the year.  

In a personal letter to Mike, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Through ‘b:Friend’ you are combatting the problem of social isolation which is felt by the elderly population living in Doncaster. You should be proud of the way you have created this organisation and how you are motivating hundreds of volunteers in your local area to join you in providing company for older neighbours.” 

Mike said: “It’s a fantastic honour to receive the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award on behalf of ‘b:Friend.’ We’re extremely pleased with how far the project has come in a relatively short period and this award is for every befriender and supporter that has dedicated their time and commitment to provide companionship to isolated older people in Doncaster.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of this problem. This award is recognition that local communities in Doncaster are taking the lead to reduce loneliness for their older neighbours and, in doing so, become a stronger collective town. 

“While I’m just a volunteer, this is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Every day we meet new befrienders and older neighbours that inspire and brighten your spirits, showing the true meaning of a community. The Prime Minister’s award is recognition of this and I hope we’ll find the support to continue reaching more isolated people that just need a cuppa and a chat each week to feel like they belong.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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