Six employees at Darlington Building Society have volunteered to help tackle loneliness among the elderly, after charity Age UK issued an urgent appeal.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington launched its ‘Good Friends’ campaign in response to a mounting mental health crisis, due to older people feeling isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey carried out by the charity showed that 95% of respondents have felt lonely during the lockdown.

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Age UK appealed for volunteer ‘befrienders’ to talk to older people on the phone or in their homes, under social distancing rules.

Other volunteering needs are delivering hot meals and food parcels, collecting shopping and prescriptions, accompanying older people to activities, assisting with light household tasks, and dog-walking.

As well as recently making a five-year commitment to donate 5% of its profits to good causes, Darlington Building Society gives all members of staff two paid days a year to volunteer in the community.

Last year, Darlington staff contributed 169 volunteering days, supporting 48 community organisations and 19,700 individuals.

Andrew Craddock, chief executive at Darlington Building Society, said: “Being part of the community is part of the ethos at Darlington Building Society – our staff want to make a difference wherever possible.

“The ‘Good Friends’ campaign being launched by Age UK gets to the heart of a really urgent issue in the communities we serve, and I am proud that six of our staff were among the first to step forward to help.”

Helen Hunter, chief executive of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington, said: “We have had a heart-warming response to the Good Friends campaign, and it’s wonderful to have a high-profile local organisation like Darlington Building Society leading the way.”