New startup uses technology to help lonely and vulnerable find companionship

The pandemic has been a difficult time for many people, not just in terms of physical health issues. Lockdowns and social isolation has caused many to experience mental health challenges, made even worse through loneliness.
Befriending network Companiions connects people who need a friend to caring companions ready to listen and spend time with them.

The app lets friends and relatives create a profile for a loved one, then arrange for vetted and rated companions to visit.

Companiions was founded by former Amazon executive Lisa Robinson, who had the idea after an accident left her housebound for three months.

The launch of the app comes as research finds four out of five Britons have become more aware of others’ loneliness since COVID-19 struck.

Companiions is a befriending network that enables friends and relatives – ‘organisers’ – to create a profile for a loved one or themselves, detailing any health issues, plus their likes and dislikes. They can then create a calendar specifying when they would like a companion to pop round to visit their loved one.

Organisers can select the companion most suited to their loved one’s needs, picking from profiles that detail experience levels, occupation, and skills like first aid.

All companions on the platform are carefully vetted using some of the world’s leading AI-powered identity verification tools. Loved ones meet their prospective companions by video call initially, allowing both sides to get to know each other.

Organisers pay as little as £12 an hour for visits, and companions can donate any or all of their fee to charity if they wish.

Marguerite, of Walton on Thames, Surrey, lost her husband recently. She has 18 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchilden whom she sees regularly, but knows that they can’t visit as often as they would like. She was brought up in India, and likes to teach her companions traditional recipes, as well as getting help in the garden.

Organiser Faye, of Thames Ditton in Surrey, booked companions to share a cup of tea and cook for her mother. One companion, Sue, of East Molesey, Surrey, enjoyed talking about line-dancing with a former professional ballroom dancer. She is using the money she earns from visits to save for a holiday.

Nearly four out of five (77%) people in Britain say they’ve become more aware of others’ loneliness since the pandemic began, and over two thirds (69%) are now more conscious of those who require support with everyday tasks, a nationwide poll of more than 2,000 British adults conducted by YouGov for Companiions reveals.

Lisa Robinson, CEO of befriending network Companiions, said: “Millions of ‘Sandwich generation’ parents do an amazing job every day, juggling childcare, work and looking after their own parents. But there are times when everyone needs a break.

“We all wish we could spend more time with our parents, and when we’re busy often feel a pang of guilt that mum or dad would really value someone to just sit and spend time with them.

“Companiions can help find a trusted, vetted person who’s willing and able to spend some time with your loved one – giving them that vital human contact so many of us missed during lockdown.

“The enforced separation we endured during the pandemic revealed what a difference simple things, like having someone to chat to, can make. Our research shows four fifths of us are now more conscious of the loneliness of others.

“Companiions is on a post-lockdown mission to end loneliness by bringing easy-to-arrange, trusted, convenient companionship to every community in the UK.

“If you know someone who will still be lonely or unable to cope with everyday tasks when life returns to normal, wherever you live, you can organise a little bit of help or companionship securely and affordably via Companiions.”

The app is supported by loneliness expert Professor Julie Barnett of the University of Bath, author of The role of mutual aid groups in brokering social connection and mitigating loneliness: learning from COVID-19.

Julie Barnett, Professor of Health Psychology, said: “Connecting with others helps to prevent loneliness. Companiions is a great service that helps do this by connecting loved ones with trusted companions.”


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