The Silver Line

The Silver Line is a national charity that aims to alleviate the solitude and loneliness faced by thousands of elderly people in the UK.

zillah richardson on the phone

Photograph: James Glossop for The Times

They run a 24 hour helpline which receives over 10,000 calls every week, 70% of which occur in the evenings and at weekends when other services are not available. 89% of callers live alone and 53% of callers report that Silver Line call-handlers are the only people they talk to all week. The charity regularly signposts users to local delivery services and they work in partnership with other elderly support organisations to try to guard against duplication.

In addition to the helpline service, Silver Line has ‘friendship’ offerings: callers are offered the chance to receive a regular weekly phone call from one of 3,000 volunteers; Silver Circles enables people to participate in facilitated group calls, allowing them to socialise in a virtual coffee morning setting around a particular theme (e.g. music); and Silver Letters is for people who prefer to communicate by post.

Silver Line employees at the new call centre in Blackpool.

When the charity was established, its helpline delivery was outsourced however this proved to be unsustainable and not cost effective. Silver Line wanted to bring the service in-house which would save money and enable them to directly influence recruitment, staff supervision and quality control; allowing Silver Line to integrate volunteers alongside paid staff to both save costs whilst increasing the number of calls they could handle. The charity was in discussion with various public health funders and investigating earned income opportunities but as these would take time they requested unrestricted funds during this transitional period. The Silver Line demonstrated a solid business plan and the Trustees were delighted to support the organisation in recognition of their impact on the lives of thousands of elderly people.

“The support of Garfield Weston has played a crucial part in the transition process to the opening of an in-house delivered helpline. The grant has also helped to attract further support from other funders – this is a huge step towards securing our long-term sustainability” Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive.