The Bridge Project in Bradford appointed Dr Tanya Gray, Senior Research Associate in Policy&Practice to undertake a review of the pilot Together Talks programme. Together Talks uses volunteers as telephone befrienders to support people misuse to step away from intensive professional support and move towards independent lives.
This new approach to service delivery was forged to some extent from necessity. Recurrent government-imposed lockdowns made it impossible to deliver services in other ways. But the pilot programme was not devised simply as a stop-gap until things ‘got back to normal’. Instead, it was anticipated that elements of the delivery approach would outlive the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The evaluation of the programme provides clear justification for continuing with the approach post-pandemic.
Together Talks was devised to tackle aspects of loneliness and social isolation which can often accompany the recovery process once intensive support comes to an end. But the pilot’s distinctiveness derives from the presence of a shared outcome – agreed with input from three specialist strands. This makes Together Talks a highly tailored scheme, focusing in on the need of an individual, whilst at the same time actively committing to collective need.
This review confirms that the project has remained personal and proximate to the needs of individuals, perhaps best illustrated by one of the volunteer befriender interviewed: ‘The best thing is how human it has all felt, very down to earth, very real and honest and direct.’
The full report is available here: