Follow @OxfordMHF
Accessibility |  Use of cookies |  Site map |  Contact    
header image
Home > Articles > Tandem

Tandem: A Mental Health Befriending Service


Tandem was formed in 1999 in response to people’s isolation due to the stigma of mental ill health i.e. other people’s attitudes and actions making it difficult to access services or activities. It was also in response to the difficulties of living with a mental health problem as experienced by the individual, such as isolating oneself due to lack of confidence or due to mental ill health triggered by certain types of social situation; for example, some people cannot cope with crowds but are OK one-to-one. Tandem believes that social isolation can be tackled by one-to-one befriending: gentle social support without pressure and tailored to the individual’s needs.

Being part of Tandem has changed my life. My befriender was wonderfully sensible and grounded –just what I needed at the time. ~ service user

At the time of writing (July 2012) we have just under 30 befriending partnerships, some of which have lasted 4 years. Befriending partnerships can last six months, or a year or longer depending on what both people want and are able to do.

What are Tandem's aims?

To provide one-to-one befriending partnerships for people with mental health problems in Oxford city.

Intended outcomes of Tandem’s Befriending Service are:

  • Reduction of isolation and loneliness
  • Improvement in mental health
  • Increase in self-esteem
  • Management of stress
  • Confidence in pursuing goals
  • Enjoyment of day to day activities
  • Increase in social and recreational activities

An example of a befriending partnership:

Brian’s volunteer Ian is half his age but both share a passion for woodwork and art. Living with a severe mental illness for many years, Brian has had to cope with losing his family and his professional life. With a lively, intelligent mind and a desire to be creative, Brian’s potential was held back by his lack of confidence. His problems with concentration also made him nervous about attending activities. With Ian, Brian now attends a range of classes, building up his considerable skills. When he can’t concentrate for the whole session and has to leave early he can leave with Ian, and not on his own. And it’s great to round off the evening with a drink and a chat instead.

Outcomes: Reduction of isolation and loneliness; confidence in pursuing goals; increase in social and recreational activities.

To apply to use the service

You can refer yourself or ask a professional to refer you. To use the service you will need to be able to meet your befriender outside of your home and to make your own meeting arrangements with your volunteer. Contact us by phone, email or letter for an application form.

When we have received your application form, and if we think we can help, we meet you informally face to face to discuss your needs and your interests and activities. If befriending looks like the right thing for you, we will accept you on to our waiting list for a volunteer befriender.

How can people get involved?

Contact us to ask us about training to be a volunteer befriender or to join our management committee.

All volunteer befrienders receive a 2 day training and must undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check (CRB).* People volunteer for various reasons – here are just a few of them:

  • Personal experience of mental ill health and wanting to ‘give back’.
  • To do something supportive and creative with another person – in contrast to full time work.
  • To do something supportive and creative with another person because you have time and energy to spare.
  • Because you are interested in working in social care and you care about people.
  • You have a concern for and awareness of people with mental health problems because of friends’ or family experience of mental ill health.

The management committee is made up of volunteer members and the committee always welcomes enquiries. You can try it out as an ‘observer’ before making any firm commitment to it.

Contact information

Tel: 01865 724225
E-mail: or

For further information, see:

A note on Tandem’s history and background:

The leading individual for setting up Tandem was Margaret Coombs who remained Chairperson for many years until she stood down just a few years ago. Margaret at this time worked for OCCAG, Oxfordshire Community Care Advisory Group which was set up to help people by informing them of their rights under the Community Care Act.

Another major factor in Tandem’s emergence as a service was the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals in the 1990’s and the re-organisation that led to people being cared for in the community, either by living on their own, in supported accommodation run by the voluntary sector or is statutory run smaller units. The Community Care Act in 1990 was another landmark at this time.

Tandem’s funding came and went, and so did the service. In the times funding ran out, Tandem carried on in name only but with a steering group (led by Margaret) keeping the project going and not giving up hope of future funding. Lottery funding in 2006 for 3 years set Tandem up in 2006/7 and it has been running since then. We have been going just about 5 and a half years now, and are lucky to have independent funding which means that we can keep the service focused on the aims we set out to achieve at the outset and do not have to change course as it were to fit in with different funders’ remits. The committee made the choice some years ago to employ independent fundraisers to raise money for us in addition to the fundraising work some members of the committee do on a steady basis.

Publication date: October 2012.

Stay up-to-date with the latest:

rss feed Articles
rss feed Blog comments
rss feed Blog posts
rss feed Involvement posts
rss feed News

> Find out about RSS feeds