Who we are

Engage develops positive relationships and builds networks within communities.  We do this by connecting a local volunteer with an isolated or lonely older person to forge a lasting befriending relationship and support the person to connect with opportunities for further social engagement.

 The programme is managed by the Engage team at The Mustard Tree where we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive.  No matter what stage or season of life, everyone should be given the chance to live life to the full.  It is this principle that is at the heart of the Engage Befriending programme.

The impact of loneliness

The impact of loneliness is well documented.  The impact on the individual’s health is as significant as obesity or the same as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and it also impacts on the long-term cognitive abilities of the individual.

The impact of our service

We know that our service users benefit from seeing or speaking to their befriender once a week…“…such a valuable service, just seeing someone once a week or so when we wouldn’t usually have much contact, be befriender has been such as support and a good friend.”

Through our partnerships and networks, we signpost to local events and activities including places to go for company – even if it’s just a place to meet up for a cup of tea, meal or enjoy some games.

We are the voice of our service users

We ensure the voice of our service users is heard the networks, steering groups and senior leadership boards we are active on.  Katherine Shepherd (The Mustard Tree CEO) is active on a number of strategy groups and committees across multiple statutory organisations including through Reading Borough Council and the BOB VCSE Health Alliance, recently contributing to the Berkshire West Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Our operational model

Our operation model is very simple.  Older people can self-refer or are referred to us via a number of routes, including local health and social care professionals, social prescribers, charities and/or family and friends.  Our regional co-ordinators will visit them to assess their needs and then match them with a volunteer within their local community who has similar interests and hobbies.  Our team provide oversight when they first meet and then provide regular supervision and support to ensure everything is going well.

Two key areas being addressed by befriending are:

Increasing a person’s sense of wellbeing

A person’s health and wellbeing are significantly impacted by their sense of loneliness and isolation

Helping people connect with their community

Making connections with the wider community is important in helping combat the sense of isolation.