accessibility & help

British Red Cross to support more vulnerable people over 50 in North Wales

For immediate release  Tuesday, 7 February, 2012
For further information  Samantha Whitwham (
Contact number   0117 301 2624 or 07525 128 297

£1 million Big Lottery Fund grant will enable Gofal scheme to be rolled out across all six counties in North Wales.

A British Red Cross service supporting vulnerable people over 50 is being extended across North Wales thanks to a £1 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The launch of the Gofal programme will take place on Friday 17 February at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno.

Gofal – meaning “care” in Welsh - is a befriending and enabling service. Volunteers visit vulnerable older people in their homes for up to 12 weeks, helping them to combat loneliness and isolation and encourage social interaction by linking them up with services and social groups in their local communities.

Following a successful project in Denbighshire, the Red Cross is proud to be rolling the service out across the remaining five counties in North Wales, including Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Flintshire and Wrexham.

Dave Worrall, Gofal project manager, said: “We truly believe this scheme changes people’s lives and this grant means we can now help even more people.

“It is about looking at what the person needs and exploring what support we can provide to allow them to make positive changes in their life. Sometimes it is the simple things that make a big difference, such as having someone to talk through their problems with. Many people are living alone without the support of family or friends and can very quickly become completely isolated.”

The service started life in 2007 thanks to funding from Denbighshire County Council. The funding allowed the Red Cross to support 50 people in the county for a period of four weeks.

In 2009 a successful application for Tesco funding meant they could extend the programme from four weeks to 12, increasing from 50 service users to 150.

In October 2011, the Red Cross received a £1 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund allowing the charity to extend the Gofal service across all counties in North Wales, reaching 600 vulnerable people over the next five years.

Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member and Chair of the AdvantAGE Programme Committee, Fran Targett, said: “Wales has a higher proportion of older people over 50 than any other country in the UK. Many older people view ageing as an opportunity and an exciting new life chapter. For others, however, older age brings challenges which, without support, can be daunting and lead to social isolation and loneliness.

“Social isolation can be a risk for older people facing life transitions such as retirement, bereavement and long-term illness. Our extensive research with key organisations which provide services for older people identified this as a key area where we could make a positive difference and that’s why we have made up to £20 million available to tackle social isolation and loneliness to improve older people’s wellbeing and quality of life.”

Dave Worrall said: “We would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund for this grant, which is extremely good news for our outreach work in North Wales supporting vulnerable people in isolated communities and expanding our successful care in the home programme in to every county in North Wales.”

One person to have already benefitted from the Gofal programme is 73-year-old Ellis Sheldon, who lives in Conwy. The Red Cross got involved when Ellis’s wife Wendy became seriously ill with a progressive form of Parkinson’s disease.

Wendy, 66, a keen gardener, began to find it increasingly difficult to do the things she loved, such as cooking and maintaining her gardens.

She was referred to the Red Cross and Sue Whalley, Gofal service co-ordinator, began visiting the couple weekly, providing emotional support to help them to come to terms with Wendy’s illness.

Ellis said: “Without Sue I don’t think I could have managed. To know that I could always pick up the phone and talk with her made the world of difference. To be able to talk through your feelings helps so much.”

A Gofal volunteer, Rosemary Smyth, also gave Wendy weekly Red Cross therapeutic massages. When Wendy sadly died in November 2010 Sue was there once again to support Ellis through his darkest moments.

Sue said: “It’s my belief that we assisted Wendy and Ellis through a very traumatic time of their life, helping to ease the stress and allowing them to cope with the journey with dignity.”

For more information about the Gofal programme, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer contact the team on 01745 828360 or email

Volunteering can be a rewarding experience and an opportunity to share your skills and develop new skills. Experience is not necessary as training will be provided.


Notes to editors

A full case study of Ellis and Wendy Sheldon’s story is available on request, along with additional photographs. Please contact Samantha Whitwham on 0117 301 2624 or 07525 128 297.

The launch of the Gofal programme takes place on Friday 17 February at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno. If you would like to attend the Photocall at 12.15pm, please contact Samantha Whitwham on the numbers above.

For more information on the British Red Cross please visit:

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

Follow us on Twitter: @BRC_West

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