New funding to meet surging demand for Southwark befriending service

A befriending service for isolated older people run by a historic charity in Southwark will double its capacity, thanks to new funding.

Blackfriars Settlement volunteer Carole with befriending client Lily
Blackfriars Settlement volunteer Carole (front) with befriending client Lily
  • Published: 23 November 2022

Blackfriars Settlement, which traces its roots back to a pioneering social movement founded in Victorian times, has been awarded £48,300 by City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

It will use the money to recruit and train new volunteers, who visit older people in their own homes once a week for a cup of tea and a chat.

The Rushworth Street-based charity says the funding will enable it to double the number of older people currently supported and to cope with a post-Covid surge in demand.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

For over 130 years, Blackfriars Settlement has been at the heart of Southwark life and continues to be a really important hub of the community.

This service provides older people with friendship and social contact, which are vital to health and happiness and which many of us have come to value more than ever during the pandemic.”

Blackfriars Settlement was founded in 1887 by female graduates as a residence bringing rich and poor together, part of a national movement aimed at tackling structural and institutional inequalities in society.

Today, it is a thriving community centre offering services including mental health and wellbeing support, a free legal clinic and the older people’s service of which befriending is part.

Blackfriars Settlement Director of Services Liz Ranger said:

The befriending service is hugely valued and this extra funding will enable us to double capacity to meet demand for a service that was already over-subscribed even before Covid.

We’re able to match volunteers with like-minded isolated older people, who really appreciate having a friend and someone who’s not being paid to visit them but who wants to be there.”

More information about Blackfriars Settlement is online at

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, awarding grants of over £28 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital –

Case study: It’s been a joy and a huge privilege’

Jackie, from Southwark, started volunteering as a telephone befriender with Blackfriars Settlement shortly after the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown.

She said: It has been a joy and a huge privilege to get to know two of the older ladies in the settlement’s community.

I’ve felt honoured to hear of their interesting and varied lives and despite the many differences between us in terms of age, culture and experience I often find that we have much in common.

I would recommend this service to anyone who might be in need of a friendly ear or looking for a worthwhile task in these uncertain times.”

At City Bridge Trust we offer a wide range of grants and funding programmes. See more information on our grant-making.

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK –

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is now responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its grants team, City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – awards over £28 million a year to good causes across the capital.