The Silver Line, launched in 2013 by Esther Rantzen, is the only national, free and confidential helpline dedicated to older people which is open every day and night of the year.
Since its national launch, The Silver Line Helpline has received over 1.4 million calls. Over two-thirds of these calls were made overnight or at weekends when no other helpline is available for older people who may be lonely, isolated or confused. It now receives around 10,000 calls every week from lonely and isolated older people; with 53% of callers saying they have literally no-one else to speak to.
The Silver Line Helpline provides three functions to support older people:
· a sign-posting service to link them into the many, varied services that exist around the country;
· a befriending service to combat loneliness;
· a means of empowering those who may be suffering abuse and neglect, if appropriate to transfer them to specialist services to protect them from harm.
The Silver Line’s befriending service required a cloud-based solution that would work with all of their volunteers’ home phones or mobiles, regardless of provider. They also needed a low-cost solution with no capital outlay that would provide centralised billing of calls, the ability for callers to portray the helpline number when calling and detailed statistics on all calling activity.
They also needed all calls to be recorded for safeguarding reasons and the ability for managers to view agent activity in real time and listen into calls to check quality.
Given that many of the volunteers (Silver Line Friends) are unpaid and not familiar with computers, the system needed to be simple to use, simple for Silver Line staff to maintain and flexible enough to deal with a certain level of volunteer turnover thus no fixed licences.
The Virtual Call Centre simply overlays each Silver Line Friend’s home phone line or mobile, connecting them to older people via a simple web interface. All the functionality of a traditional phone system is supplied but in the cloud.
A simple to use agent interface was created to limit the functions for Silver Line Friends and to make it as user friendly as possible. Most Silver Line Friends can be self-taught on this simple interface, including logging in for the first time, thus saving Silver Line staff time.
Silver Line staff are supplied a more function-rich interface allowing them to set up new volunteers, easily listen to recorded calls and other more complex call centre technology.
Many Silver Line Friends now use tablets or smart phones to make their calls, logging in to the simple interface on the device, and taking the call on the same device. This means that Silver Line Friends can make their calls wherever they are.
To date, Silver Line Friends and Silver Line staff have made over 800,000 calls to older people using the VCC.
Recently, Call Handling have worked with The Silver Line to support two further services. Silver Circles, which are group calls for older people with shared interests, and Keeping in Touch Calls, where volunteers can call older people who have requested a shorter call and who would like to speak to different people, not just a single Silver Line Friend.
The Silver Line relies entirely on donations and with a growing demand from older people, it is pleased to work with Call Handling where fixed costs are kept to a minimum, and can monitor actual call costs in real time to keep these in line with donations received.