We continue to celebrate acts of kindness across the county in our #SaltOfTheEarth campaign, which we are running with local media.

During the pandemic, people have become more aware than ever of just how important it is to make contact with others.

Being able to have a conversation with another person is key to combating loneliness and isolation. Simply knowing someone is there for a friendly chat a couple of times a week can make a world of difference.

Volunteers are helping to reduce loneliness by providing much-needed companionship through befriending schemes like Age UK Good Friends.

When 83-year-old Gerry Bass heard about the Age UK Good Friends scheme two years ago, he was keen to put himself forward to help. Little did he know that the project, which matches volunteers with lonely elderly recipients to befriend, would benefit him as much as the person with whom he was paired.

Gerry, who lives near Hawes, was put in touch with 91-year-old Jack Elliott, who lives on his own, and for the last two years, before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted things, they met up at a cafe every couple of weeks to catch up.

Jack, who worked as a woodwork teacher for 25 years, became increasingly lonely as he got older. Since being paired with Gerry, their friendship has blossomed and they have stayed connected throughout the pandemic.

Gerry explains: “I befriended Jack as a volunteer, but in actual fact I think we've befriended each other. When people are lonely, they quite often need just a little bit of support, really. I think we all just need to talk to someone sometimes.”

Jack said becoming friends with Gerry has been a highlight of his later years: “It has been one of the best things in my life.”

With North Yorkshire now in Tier 2, Government advice for people who are at higher risk of being hospitalised as a result of Covid-19 is to continue to keep their number of social interactions low and take extra care to follow strict social distancing. Advice also includes getting help from family or friends with shopping and other essentials.

For people without those local networks, who have relied on the help of community support organisations and the voluntary sector partners they are working alongside, that safety net of support remains in place. CSOs are also helping to make sure people are planning ahead and prepared for the Christmas period when shops will be closed.

People who need support with shopping, prescriptions and other essentials but don’t have anyone to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else, can contact our customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm. People can also contact us by email or live chat.

Read more information about the help available, including a link to the latest Government guidance.

"Jack and Gerry"