Quick menu:

This site is showing content relating to all UK countries. Change this using the country filters below or select Ok to accept. This site uses cookies.

  • Help and support

Older people’s £5 million Lottery silver lining

  • Print
Release date:
11 9 2013

A vital new befriending and advice helpline, The Silver Line has been awarded £5million from the Big Lottery Fund to enable it to develop the much needed service for older people following a successful pilot in the North West and North East, Isle of Man and Jersey.

The Silver Line was set up in May 2012 by Esther Rantzen to provide the first and only freephone helpline for older people to operate UK-wide 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service will launch nationally before Christmas this year when older people are at their most vulnerable from loneliness and isolation.

The Silver Line will support older people who are often reluctant to ask for help, are frightened and confused, or simply want to talk to another human being having spent the day entirely on their own. The new service will also provide access to information and a befriending service to break through the stigma of admitting to loneliness.

A phone call can be transformative and lift someone’s mood and self-esteem; one caller said: “When I get off the phone I feel like I belong to the human race.”

Today’s Lottery funding has been made available through The Fund’s £20 million Dignity programme for older people which focuses on providing services to older people who are isolated and lonely across the UK.

Until now there has not been a UK-wide, 24 hour umbrella organisation which links older people to support services in their local communities. The Silver Line will connect individuals to local services and activities, and in the same way that ChildLine, founded by Esther in 1986, helped abused children, The Silver Line will support older people who are experiencing abuse or neglect, and make sure they are protected.

The Silver Line anticipates that it will receive one million calls to its helpline in the first year of operation.  In the pilot around 95% of older people use landlines to reach the helpline on a simple 0800 number which is free to callers.

3,000 volunteers, known as Silver Line Friends will be recruited in the first year. They will be vetted and trained to make weekly befriending calls to those who request them. Working in pairs, the volunteers will support 12,000 individuals in the first year. In addition to one-to-one calls, volunteers will also facilitate conference calls known as Silver Circles on specific subjects such as football, wartime memories, cooking, gardening or politics.

The Silver Line will have one main call centre based in Blackpool with 13 Silver Line managers based around the UK who will train around 300 volunteers each for the Silver Line Friends programme. The service in Scotland will be delivered in partnership with Age Scotland.

Research conducted by The Silver Line during its pilot found:
• Calls during the night are much more likely to be from people requiring emotional support
• Already over one third of calls (34%) are from men, many of whom find it harder to express their feelings of loneliness
• The majority of callers are between 60 to 80 years old
• Of the 3500 calls received, some 400 older people requested Silver Line Friends 

Esther Rantzen CBE, Chair and Founder, The Silver Line said: “I know from experience how difficult it is for a brand new charity to obtain the funding it needs. Few funders are prepared to back a new, untried idea. The Silver Line is hugely grateful to Big Lottery Fund for enabling us to launch in time for Christmas, for many older people the loneliest time of the year. The Fund has recognised that millions of older people are lonely some or all of the time, but the loneliness carries a stigma which makes it impossible for them to ask for help. They have too much pride, and they do not want to be become a burden.”

“At The Silver Line we believe older people have a great deal to offer, and deserve respect, and we have proved during our pilots that by offering information and friendship, we can support older people, and lift their confidence and self-esteem. Before we opened, I received a letter from an elderly lady who said, ‘I feel my life is pointless and I am a waste of space.’ Thanks to the grant from Big Lottery Fund, that lady will be able to ring The Silver Line and she will know that we all care about her, we value her, and she is not alone.”

Peter Ainsworth, Chair, Big Lottery Fund: “The loneliness and isolation of older people is one of the last big taboos – from individuals talking about how it affects them to society in general admitting that it is very common.  ChildLine continues to transform the lives of so many children and has done so for the past 27 years. I believe that The Silver Line will make the same significant difference for today’s older people and future generations by promoting dignity and helping to prevent the neglect of vulnerable older people.”

“Today’s funding for The Silver Line is the first investment of around £20 million in the UK through to 2015 through the Big Lottery Fund’s Dignity programme for older people.”

The Silver Line is working with key older people’s charities, companies and organisations including Age UK, Contact the Elderly, Community Service Volunteering, The Samaritans, The Campaign to End Loneliness, Comic Relief, BT, Barclays and Swiss Re.

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of The Silver Line Helpline 
Office: (020) 7224 2020 Direct Dial: (020) 7224 2730 Mobile: 07814 572213 
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Ask BIG a question here: http://ask.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Follow BIG on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BigLotteryFund #BIGlf
Find BIG on facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund

Notes to editors

• The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
• BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in June 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6 bn.
• The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
• Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £30 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.



  • Older people


  • Health and well-being