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'I'm on my own so it's nice to join Liverpool Cares'

Please note: this post is 20 months old and The Cares Family is no longer operational. This post is shared for information only

Our Love Your Neighbour programme brings together younger and older neighbours living across Liverpool, to share time, laughter, and joy together over the phone, in-person, or a mix of both. Ahead of being matched, there are various checkpoints to make sure Liverpool Cares is the right fit for the neighbours, and that everyone involved gets the most out of their experience. I wanted to take some time to spotlight this ‘neighbour journey’ and explain why we work this way. Hopefully, it will give you a better idea of the behind the scenes of Love Your Neighbour and the work we do!

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First things first, older neighbours are referred to the team here at Liverpool Cares. Older neighbours might be referred by their doctors, physiotherapist, friend, or family members – but the list goes on! Neighbours can also self-refer if they’d like to. We always call new neighbours to chat through our programmes, and see what they’d like to get involved with. Usually at this point we can find out a bit more about them, and also talk about any additional support they might be looking for. We love speaking to new neighbours to welcome them to Liverpool Cares, it’s really important and helps us set the tone and build a relationship. By getting to know the neighbours, we can also signpost them onto other local organisations where necessary. 

Once we’ve spoken to a neighbour and checked they are up for getting involved with Liverpool Cares and the Love Your Neighbour programme, they’re added to our waiting list for a home visit from myself and another member of the Liverpool Cares team.

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During a home visit we want to make sure that the older neighbour understands and is suitable for the programme. Visiting an older neighbour also helps us get to know them better, so we can get a clearer idea of who’d be a good match for them. For example, if a neighbour mentions a love of languages or that they spend every Saturday out walking their dog, we might be able to find them a match they can share those passions with! These visits are really important, as we’ve often not met the neighbour up until this point and an in-person chat helps us get to know them and get a better idea of their needs. 

Following the visit, we send a letter and give the neighbour a follow-up phone call. This is a great chance to offer signposting support for any issues which might’ve cropped up, or answer any questions. At this point, if the neighbour’s suitable and interested in meeting a younger neighbour to build a friendship, they’re placed on the waiting list for a match. I check in regularly with neighbours on the waiting list - calling them to see how they’re getting on, and answering any questions.

Once we’ve had a successful first visit I take a step back, and the match organises their own visits, calls or outings together going forwards. I check in regularly with both neighbours to make sure the match and friendship is developing well, and I receive regular ‘visit logs’ from the younger neighbours - forms they fill in to tell me what they’ve been up to with their new friend! I’m always available to step in for support when and where needed, and everyone involved knows to give me a call if there are any questions, issues or concerns.

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In the background we’re constantly meeting new younger neighbours and inducting them to the programme, and so I’m always keeping the waiting list in mind when meeting new younger neighbours. My aim is to find the best match for both the younger and older neighbour, so that they can build a mutual, hopefully long-lasting friendship

When I meet a younger neighbour I think would be a good fit for an older neighour on our waiting list I share a bit of information about each of them with the other, and oftentimes have a phone call to talk through the potential match with everyone involved. If I get the go ahead I organise a first visit – which I join for, to introduce the pair and make sure everything goes smoothly. Being there also means I can answer any questions and encourage conversation if anyone is feeling a little shy!

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Every match is different and we have lots of unique friendships at Liverpool Cares! For example, take a look at one of our newer matches, Jenni and Teresa, and their journey to being matched on the programme:

We met Teresa in November 2021. Teresa had referred herself via our website after hearing an interview with us on BBC Radio Merseyside. We organised a home visit, met and got to know Teresa, and she joined our waiting list for a Love Your Neighbour match – as well as joining the mailing list for our social clubs. Teresa often says ‘it felt like fate’ that she heard us chatting on the radio that day, - “I am on my own so when I heard on the radio about Liverpool Cares I thought that would be nice to join!”

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Jenni applied for the Love Your Neighbour programme in March 2022, and following an induction was matched with Teresa. The pair met for the first time in April 2022, and are now firm friends. They speak on the phone, meet up in town and Jenni also visits Teresa at home! They have hung out 20 times for a total of 54 hours since their introduction and speak highly of their match. 

When asked to describe their friendship Teresa said- “Jenni is so lovely, so patient, anywhere I want to go Jenni wants to go or if Jenni wants to go I will go with Jenni, I couldn’t have been matched better!” Jenni added “ I think sometimes we tend to stick within our own age groups and our own friendship groups and we don’t tend to look to widen them. And that is something that Liverpool Cares really helps with.”

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As we don’t have a standard time frame for our matches, this is just one example of the work that goes into making a match. While we’ll always introduce ourselves to new older neighbours within 7 working days, the process of matching them can look different for each individual as we match based on location, interests and personality and it may take time for the right fit to come along. 

We’re really proud of the connections our younger and older neighbours forge on our Love Your Neighbour programme – some of the friendships on the programme have been in touch for over three years now, and we’re always building new ones.