A Sheffield grandfather of five robbed of family contact by coronavirus has thanked a city charity scheme for helping to curb his loneliness.

Graham Whittaker, aged 85, was offered help by Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC) when his wife moved into a care home at the start of the pandemic.

Now he regularly talks to a telephone support volunteer, which he says has softened the blow of not being able to see his wife, children and grandchildren during lockdowns.

Graham said: “My GP referred me to SCCCC around a year ago, as my wife lives at a residential home and things were getting me down. I have three daughters and five grandchildren and not being able to see them and my wife much over the lockdowns has been very difficult.

“I also don’t have carer visits. I have been offered them to help me with my medication, but I have lots of notices around the house to make sure I take the right ones, so don’t need them at the moment.

“Malcom often calls me during the daytime, once a week. We have made a good relationship. I don’t think either of us are very good on the phone, so we are quite happy to just sit for a bit until the conversation comes.

“We bonded talking about the jobs we have done. For the last 20 years of my career I worked with young offenders, and it turned out that Malcom worked as an accountant for us at Moorfoot.

“We also share life experiences, like working in the steel works before they were closed down. I worked in the steel works for 30 years. I had never had an interview for a job before and following the steel works closing, but I had my first one and got the job. It was a complete change of life.

“At first, I didn’t think the phone support was helping me and I was a little bit wary to begin with. But gradually we got to know each other and now I like it. Malcolm tells me lots about his garden and things like that. It’s nice to talk to someone about their life.”

SCCCC is currently recruiting new volunteers to be paired up with older people for telephone support. Anyone in South Yorkshire is eligible to help out.

The charity hopes telephone calls may become friendly visits in the future, once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted further. A full induction and DBS checks will be carried out to ensure all volunteers are suitable to support older people.

To find out more or to volunteer, email volunteers@scccc.co.uk or phone 0114 2505292.