Tackling loneliness through befriending

Loneliness can affect us all at any time in our lives. For some, it is a passing feeling, for others it lingers.

Research shows that one in five people in the UK feel lonely and socially isolated. Feelings of loneliness can be particularly heightened at times of change in our lives or as a result of ill health or poor mobility.

One of the ways we can alleviate loneliness is to talk with someone. Talking to others can provide us with a sense of connection and help keep feelings of loneliness at bay. Volunteer Befrienders offer a supportive and reliable relationship to people who would otherwise be socially isolated. 

For the person being befriended this can make all the difference, giving them something to look forward to and enjoy. Our befrienders tell us that they too enjoy the experience and gain a sense of well-being from making new relationships. 

Please consider becoming a volunteer befriender and make a difference to someone’s life in the Surrey Heath and Runnymede areas. You don’t need any specific qualifications or education, just the skills you would bring to any friendship: an ability to listen, friendliness, reliability, a sense of humour and a desire to help others. We will ensure you have the necessary training before you start your befriending journey and provide ongoing support. 

An hour a week is all it takes to bring a smile to someone’s face. 

Time to Talk is a member of the Befriending Networks, where we benefit from the latest in befriending training and resources.

Making a real difference to local people’s lives

Two older women sitting outside on a garden bench talking and laughing
Pam & Ann

Pam and Ann have been meeting once a week since the summer.

Pam says, “We both have similar views. And we like a bit of fashion and make up.

“When we meet up, we have a long chat and put the world to rights. Because Ann’s been a teacher, she’s used to talking to people. And I was a hairdresser, so my job was all about having the gift of the gab!”

Coincidentally, both were new to the area, having moved to Surrey Heath to be nearer family. Ann says, “I was looking to meet new people and thought volunteering would be a good way to do that. I really look forward to meeting up with Pam every week. We have a good chat – we always have something to say to each other.”

David & Bill

David has been visiting Bill since the start of 2023. Bill has aphasia and finds walking difficult now, so they tend to sit and chat.

David says, “I heard about Time to Talk from RestLess. I have done a lot of volunteering and when I retired last October I thought this looked interesting. It’s very light – I just come and waffle on!”

Hilary, Bill’s wife, says, “Bill looks forward to seeing David each week. It really lifts him.”

Alan & Joyce

Alan is one of our long-term volunteers. He says, “I find volunteering really rewarding. Everyone’s got stories and it’s so rewarding listening to them. I know from people’s families that it means something to them as well. That, to me, is enough.”

He and Joyce started meeting up a few months ago, after Joyce was referred to Time to Talk by one of the local social prescribers.

Alan says, “We hit it off pretty well. I came for a visit and found Joyce was incredibly cheeky!”

Joyce laughs. “I’m good at putting him in his place.” She looks forward to Alan’s visits, saying, “I don’t have anyone else to talk to.”

Lucy & June

For the last year and a half, Lucy has been chatting to June every week. They have got to know one another well and look forward to chatting to each other. June and Lucy enjoy exchanging stories and sending one another photographs. Recently Lucy took June out to the local garden centre as a treat for her birthday, they had a lovely time window shopping and enjoying a cup of coffee and slice of cake. Listen to Lucy’s thoughts on befriending.

Why become a befriender?

To brighten someone’s day
Make a positive difference
Meet new and interesting people
Get out into your community
Gain a sense of purpose
Be part of a movement tackling loneliness
Connect with people from different backgrounds
Alleviate your own feelings of loneliness

Interested? Get in touch!

If you are interested in befriending someone in Runnymede or Surrey Heath, or if you know someone who would like a befriender, please complete our contact form or call Karen on 01276 402789 or Donna on 01932 571122.

We use this information to contact you. We will not share or pass on your details

How it works

We are a befriending service that prides itself on taking time to get to know both the people we support and our volunteer befrienders.

When we receive a referral – either from an organisation, a family or directly from someone looking for a befriender – our Time to Talk managers first meet with the person in their own home. We do this to explain what we can and cannot offer, and to get as much information as we can about the person, their needs, interests, life experiences and what they hope to gain from the befriending relationship. We also undertake a risk assessment, which will eventually be shared with the volunteer.

We then look at finding a volunteer that has similar interests to the befriendee. All our volunteers have been police checked and have received training before being matched.

If the befriendee and volunteer are both happy with a proposed match, we arrange an introductory meeting with our manager, the volunteer, the befriendee and their family member if appropriate. At this introductory meeting, we discuss what both parties would like to do when they meet i.e. stay home, visit a garden centre etc. We all sign an agreement with boundaries, expectations and any risks addressed.

After the first meeting, our managers call to see how the visit went and continue to do so on a regular basis.

All the way through this process, we support people individually and try to get the best possible match in place. We have very few relationship breakdowns as we take a lot of care considering who is best matched with who.


Whether you’re looking to volunteer as a befriender, or are thinking of making a referral, some of the questions you have may be answered below.

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered below, then please contact:

Donna on 01932 571122 for the Runnymede Area or email her at [email protected]

Karen on 01276 402789 for the Surrey Heath Area or email her at [email protected]

How can I make a referral? Can I refer myself?

You can make a referral for yourself or someone else by using the online form above, or by calling Karen on 01276 402789 or Donna on 01932 571122.

Who can volunteer as a befriender?

Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer as a befriender. All you need to become a Time to Talk volunteer is an ability to listen, to be friendly and reliable. You will get full support to make your volunteer experience as enjoyable as possible.

As a volunteer you will not only brighten someone’s day, you will meet new people, learn new skills and make a difference in your community. Befriending is a flexible volunteering role which can fit around other commitments.

How does befriending help?

Befriending has a valuable and positive impact on people’s lives. Volunteers are matched with people who have similar interests. Just talking to someone on a regular basis, makes a huge and significant difference to people’s lives and wellbeing. It gives them something to look forward to, someone to share their stories with and a connection to their community easing their sense of isolation.

Is befriending safe? What about confidentiality?

Befriending relationships work within the boundaries agreed with all parties when a volunteer and client are matched. All parties sign a simple agreement to ensure everyone understands the expectations of the relationship. This can be reviewed at any time.

The benefit of befriending with Time to Talk, is that you will never be left alone to deal with situations that arise; our befriending managers are available to support you throughout your befriending journey. We stay in touch with our volunteers, offer monthly drop in’s and we’re always happy to meet for a cup of tea and a chat if needed.

At Time to Talk, we do everything we can to ensure your befriending experience is an enjoyable one.

As a volunteer, will I have training? And are expenses covered?

Our befriending managers provide appropriate training at the beginning of the volunteer’s journey with Time to Talk. The training covers subjects such as, boundaries, safeguarding and what to expect when befriending. We are always open to suggestions should additional training be required.

Expectations around expenses are discussed with both the clients and volunteers at the beginning of the befriending relationship. Most volunteering expenses are covered by Time to Talk. This is covered in detail in our induction.

How often do I visit?

We ask our volunteers to visit once a week for a minimum of one hour. Some volunteers are matched with more than one person and are able to commit to more time but this is not an expectation.

Befriending is a flexible volunteering opportunity that can easily fit around other commitments. Volunteers make their own arrangements with the person they visit. Some volunteers work full-time and can only visit weekends and evenings, we do what we can to work around your availability.

We do not have a time limit on our befriending relationships. Visits are ongoing as long as both parties are enjoying the visits and are willing and able to continue.

Can I take the person out on a trip?

If both parties are willing and able, we encourage local trips. Some of our befrienders regularly take the person they visit out for coffee for example, but others prefer a home visit.

We talk through the preferences of both volunteer and client at the beginning of the befriending journey and match accordingly.

What happens if something goes wrong?

At the beginning of your befriending journey, we do what we can to match you with someone you will enjoy spending time with. However, matches might not always be successful. Our befriending managers are available to talk through any concerns and will work with you to address them. We rarely have to bring a befriending relationship to an end but if this does need to happen, we support all parties through this process.

Connecting people in Runnymede and Surrey Heath who want someone to talk to with volunteer befrienders.

Subscribe to our e-news

Find out about local volunteering opportunities and keep up to date with local events & fundraising news by subscribing to one of our bulletins.

Subscribe now