Our Mental Health Befriending Scheme provides clients with regular, community-based support and companionship to enable them to become more independent, develop confidence and overcome social isolation.

The Mental Health Befriending Scheme was set up in 1992 in response to a clearly identified need among people with enduring mental ill health whose illness had led them to become profoundly socially isolated and solitary.

The service recruits, trains and matches volunteers with clients who have mental ill health. Some of our volunteers have lived experience of mental ill health, which can be a real strength, but means that providing the right support to volunteers is also vitally important.

If you are interested in becoming part of our team of Volunteers, search ‘Befriending’ on our Volunteer Portal for current opportunities or contact a member of our staff. Read more about the role of Volunteers below.

What is involved?

Every volunteer is carefully matched with a person who has become socially isolated as a result of enduring mental ill health. Sometimes clients also face issues of homelessness, domestic violence and substance misuse. The matching process is critical. We therefore adopt a strengths-based approach, often matching volunteers with clients who have similar interests.

The befriender’s role is to provide support, companionship and encouragement within a confidential, trusting and safe environment. The befriender support clients to develop confidence and self-esteem and overcome social isolation. Our volunteers help clients to develop new social networks and access community-based support, to both build their confidence and foster independence. We see the befriender – client relationship as a partnership. Meetings are therefore often about doing ordinary things like going for a coffee and having a chat. Through these regular meetings, volunteers can make a real difference.

Volunteers need to be over 18, have a mature outlook and be open-minded about mental health problems. You will need to be supportive, willing to listen and be prepared to make a commitment. The commitment is usually for about an hour a week and lasts for a maximum of 12 months. We need two character references and you will need to have an enhanced DBS check.

If you have some spare time and would like to make a difference to someone’s life please get in touch to find out more or express interest via the Volunteer Platform.


The Mental Health Befriending Service matches volunteers with clients to reduce loneliness and social isolation and increase self esteem and community engagement. One of the challenges is matching the right volunteer with the right client and so sometimes clients have to wait for a while, other times the partnership happens immediately after client’s assessment.

If you feel this service is suitable for a client you are working with and would like to discuss their needs, please contact the Project Coordinator. A referral to this service must come through a health care professional such as a Care Coordinator, GP, Counsellor etc.

There is a fee per session, payable through a personal budget or personal finances via monthly invoice. The service can also be directly commissioned.

Please contact the coordinator (preferably via email) to discuss your client’s specific needs.

Project Staff

Natalie Hickman, Mental Health Befriender Service Coordinator

Find staff contact details under Health and Social Care Team in Our Team

Funding and Partners

The Mental Health Befriending Service is funded through fees, small grants and donations, please support this project by texting MHBS07 £5 to 70070 (other amounts can be donated).