‘If she has a problem, she comes to me’: the retired care worker helping to fight local loneliness

Margaret Shiplee sealed her commitment to her Suffolk community by joining a befriending scheme. So we treated her with some flowers

When Margaret Shiplee retired from her job as a homecare worker for people with special needs 15 years ago, she was at a loss. “I thought, oh God – I have to do something now,” she says. “If I stopped doing anything I’d be bored out of my brain. I’m not very good at relaxing.”

Shiplee, who is 75 and lives in Worlingham, east Suffolk, then heard about an initiative called the Befriending Scheme, which connects adults with learning difficulties or mental health needs to people in their community. She signed up and was paired with Julie Martin, 58, from nearby Beccles, who has a learning disability. The two have now been friends for nearly 15 years.

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