Section 5A



Welcome to The Puddenecks, a registered charity that provides socialisation and help to older people. The purpose of this document is to provide you with some information and guidelines for what you can expect as a volunteer telephone befriender and/or meal deliverer.

Operating Procedures and Guidelines:

Operating Procedures during Covid-19


During ‘normal’ times our guest related activities are centred upon providing socialisation for guests away from their homes. During Covid-19 emergency, restrictions have prevented meeting up with our most vulnerable having to self-isolate.  Puddenecks’ activities have adapted by providing meals delivered to guests’ homes, undertaking some shopping expeditions and establishing a telephone befriending service to older people living independently.

The purpose of this paper is to explain how circumstances have changed and how Puddeneck’s,  volunteers and guests’  risks have been managed.

Telephone befriending service

Each guest has been allotted to a volunteer who rings them on a regular basis, escalates any concerns on either mental or medical welfare and advises if  emergency shopping is required. Appended at 1 is the policy  circulated to all volunteers regarding this activity. Guidance was sought from Age UK as to how the service could be optimised whilst securing both guests and volunteers.

Delivering Meals to Patients Homes

The existing Guidelines for Volunteer Drivers do not apply to current circumstances. Delivering meals is considerably less riskier as there are no complications regarding mobility of guests. Volunteers are reminded to obey the national guidelines regarding facemasks and distance and are required to ring guests in advance of delivery to introduce themselves. With just one exception, drivers do not have to enter guest homes. The exception relates to one older lady/gentleman who walks only with the use of crutches and here the driver takes the package into her home, puts the meal on the table and then exits.  This activity does not fall under the definition of regulated activities and is no different to any food delivery service for this mentally aware lady/gentleman.


Overall activities, about half of the volunteers are Puddenecks. The remainder are known to us through recommendations of trusted members and volunteers. There has not been a single guest complaint regarding volunteers received in the 12 deliveries covering some 1300 meals, but if there were the Complaints Procedure would be used.


Authorised volunteers are covered by our insurance for negligence but not reckless activity,  personal and accidental liability whilst engaged on our normal activities.

Bernard Woolf

Last Reviewed: February 2024

Appendix 1

Puddenecks Guidelines for Telephone Befrienders  

These guidelines are based on advice kindly provided by Age UK Barnet.

Many vulnerable people have been struggling with loneliness and anxiety during these difficult times.  If Covid restrictions or longer-term issues have led to enforced isolation, then they will be feeling especially alone and anxious.

The purpose of our Telephone Befriending is as follows:

~ To offer a weekly phone contact with clients.

~ To provide emotional support and companionship to the lonely and isolated who are over 55 years of age and live in our catchment area in Barnet

~To help provide access to information that may be hard for those who are isolated and digitally challenged to access.

~ To help the isolated identify problems and issues that are worrying them and, if possible, signpost them to the help they need. 

~ Encouraging and motivating clients where appropriate to resume social interaction and interests.

Thank you for your help during this difficult time.

Though it may feel strange at first, you can deliver a high quality befriending service and your calls can provide a form of comfort, connection and community during this current crisis and beyond.  We hope you find this guide a help in setting up and building your phone relationship.

For ease of reference you the volunteer are referred to as the “Befriender” and the person you are chatting to is the “Befriendee”

Skills for Telephone Befriending

Delivering telephone befriending can be difficult at first, especially if you are more used to face-to-face interactions.

Here are some good practice guidelines to help you:

~ Try to ensure you are relaxed and have a calm setting.  Cut down on any distractions, both internal and external, like the radio, TV etc.  Allow yourself the time and space to focus on the conversation with your Befriendee.

~ Put the service user at ease and allow them time to get comfortable at the start of the call.  Don’t be afraid of silences.

~ Make sure the time of the call is appropriate for both the client and yourself.  Ask them if they are ok to talk now or would they like a call back and agree a time for this.

~ Respect and care about your Befriendee.  Listening to them, their stories and their feelings is a privilege.  If they mention things that make you feel uncomfortable, talk to our co-ordinator, Paul Kidd, about this.

~ Explore the current issues: use open questions.  Do not interrupt, but give them clarification that you are listening by repeating back to them what they’ve said.  Perhaps think about some topics of conversation that could be of interest in advance of the call.

~ Allow your Befriendee to set the pace and tell the story in their own way.

~ Listen carefully; consider what is being said between the lines.

~ At intervals, sum up what your Befriendee is telling you to ensure you have understood them correctly.

~ Ask questions, take an interest in what they are saying.

~ At the end of each call, make a day and time for the next call.

~ Once the call is finished, you may want to make a few notes of your conversation to help you with your next call.  Maybe jot down any names they mentioned, eg their son’s name, to help you remember next week.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, please speak to your Befriendee to check on their welfare:

~ Do they have a supply of food and general household supplies like soap and washing powder?  Are they eating well?  Do they have enough supply of their regular medication?  How are they getting these?

~ Do they have neighbours or family checking on them?

~ How are they feeling regarding isolation and loneliness during this pandemic?

~ Are they happy with you continuing to keep in touch with them in this way?

Promote having a structure, trying to keep meal times and a sleep pattern.

~ Establish a routine.  Suggest some of the following where appropriate:

~ Exercise – online You Tube workouts promoting indoor exercises.

~ Nature – if they have a garden or outside area, spend time looking after it and relaxing in it.  Tending houseplants, flowers etc.

~ Entertainment and relaxation – books; jigsaws; tv; music (listening, playing an instrument, singing), write a poem or short story, colouring in, crosswords, baking, painting, make cards, write a letter.  Use our own , ‘Things to Do” checklist.

~ Do a focused activity – tidy a wardrobe, paint the hallway, sort through old photo albums, batch cook some of your favourite meals for the freezer.

~ Promote turning off the news sometimes; it may lower stress levels to have a break from it.

If things start to feel overwhelming, talk to Bernard Woolf

Covid 19 Information Guidance

You are not able to advise clients about what actions they should take. Offer Age UK Advice line 0800 678 1602

Structuring the conversation: Don’t:

  • Don’t – Reassure the client that everything will be alright, and you can make things better.
  • Don’t – Divert the conversation away from what the person is saying
  • Don’t – Tell the person what to do
  • Don’t – Assume you know everything about the situation
  • Don’t – Use Closed/Unhelpful Questions/statements such as: What are you going to do about it” “You’ll be fine, don’t worry
  • Do use phrases like:-
    •  “Perhaps you can tell me more about that”
    • “It might be helpful if you could tell me what happened”

Here are a few other things to think about when offering telephone befriending:

  • Do recognise your own boundaries and think before you say yes to things.  We don’t know how long people might need to self-isolate for, so don’t take on more than you feel you can manage over a potentially long period of time.  Keep us informed of your availability and the client’s needs for ongoing support.  Do not feel guilty if we have to transition to another volunteer but try to provide time for us to do this.
  • Do remember that the main focus of the relationship is the needs of the other person.
  • Do let the client know when you will next be calling them.  If they have call-barring this may be especially important.  Some clients will only pick up the phone if they hear the caller speaking and recognise their voice or you may have to call twice in quick succession if they struggle to get to the phone.  Check when they have carers coming or if they have other commitments.
  • Do let them know if possible how much you enjoy talking to them.
  • Don’t become emotionally over involved, and if you feel the Befriendee is becoming over dependent then let our Co-ordinator know.

Privacy of numbers

If you do not want to share your personal details, especially your phone number or address:

~ In order to hide your number from a landline – dial 141 and then the number

~ From an iPhone go into Settings – Phone – Show my Caller ID

~ From an Android device – press the vertical 3 dots for a drop down menu and select ‘settings’, select supplementary services, select ‘showing caller ID’, click ‘hide my number.

Further Support and Safeguarding Concerns

If you have any concerns about your Befriendee then please contact Bernard Woolf or Bryan Harrison who will get in touch with the nominated next of kin or another appropriate source of help. If you feel the situation requires immediate assistance then contact the emergency services direct and then inform Bryan Harrison.

Bernard Woolf 07973 133926

Bryan Harrison 07939 246857

Bernard Woolf

Last reviewed: February 2024