North Tyneside Contact Centre worker Ricky Prior talks about his experiences on BT’s Care Home Companions scheme, which is designed to connect isolated care home residents with BT employees for regular calls. BT is expanding the scheme and aims to have 1,600 volunteers making 15,000 calls to care home residents over the next year.  

Ricky said: “I signed up to the Care Home Companions scheme during the national lockdown because I wanted to make a difference to the many older people who had found themselves isolated and alone during the pandemic. 

“People in the North East are known for our strong sense of community and that’s why many of us in our Contact Centres across the region wanted to connect with those living in care homes who didn’t have regular contact with friends or family in the toughest of times.

“My Nana and Granda live in a rural area and don’t have people around them, so it really resonated with me just how important it was for people to know someone was there for them, especially older people who might not have close family nearby to rely on.

“I was connected with Bill and we quickly built up a strong bond over a love of Newcastle United and we have remained friends ever since, even getting the opportunity to visit St James’ Park together and meet Sir Geoff Hurst.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with Bill to help him make the most of new technology like video calling, and sharing photos and videos over his mobile phone as part of BT’s work to support 25 million people to learn new digital skills.   

“You can see the difference that the Care Home Companions scheme has made to people’s lives. And helping older people learn the skills to connect digitally will go even further in tackling the isolation and loneliness that the programme was introduced to remove.”