Revealing, Recognising and Rewarding Positive Role Models
Six care homes can save £4,000 on having YOPEY Befrienders

Six care homes can save £4,000 on having YOPEY Befrienders

YOPEY, which has been supporting 2,000 care homes nationwide with young people’s letters during the pandemic, is returning to in-home visits this autumn and is looking for six homes to take part in the heavily subsidised scheme.

The charity, which has been running award-winning and CQC rating-enhancing schemes for care homes since 2013, has been given a donation that will pay the lion’s share of running intergenerational schemes in six homes for a year.

YOPEY recruits and trains the young people to relate to people living with dementia. Upon completion of training the young people become known as YOPEY Befrienders. YOPEY works out a timetable of YOPEY Befriender visits with the care home, and the young people write reports after each visit.

It is these reports that YOPEY compiles into comprehensive documents for participating homes to show to the CQC. YOPEY has contributed to about a quarter of the homes it has worked in to being upgraded.

A home in Wymondham, Norfolk, went from good to outstanding after the inspectors found YOPEY Befriender “helped to reduce people’s isolation and was particularly good for people who did not like big group activities. The service made them feel involved and happy.”

A home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, also achieved outstanding after inspectors saw it had “strong links to the local community” by being involved in a YOPEY Befriender scheme. “On a weekly basis pupils spent time with people living at the home. The Intergenerational socialising was of benefit to all.”

A home in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, went from requires improvement to good after inspectors reported “working really well was the YOPEY Befriender scheme. This involved young people volunteering to visit people in a care home near their school to help ease loneliness and learn life lessons.”

It costs YOPEY £6,000 to set up and run a YOPEY Befriender scheme for a year, which can involve up to 30 young people and 1500 visits. The charity, which is run by a former Daily Telegraph journalist, is also very good at getting positive publicity for partner care homes. The donor has given £4,000 each for six schemes, leaving six care homes to find £2,000 each.

Preference for this discount is being given to homes in the East of England – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. But homes in other parts of the UK can also apply.

YOPEY Founder Tony Gearing MBE said: “Our volunteers are really keen to get back into care homes, chatting to residents and making friends, helping wellbeing staff to put on activities and generally make the lives of the elderly better – and possibly helping to increase the home’s CQC rating.”

“I truly believe that ‘YOPEY Befriender’ is the best intergenerational scheme available to care homes in the UK!”

Schools, get pupils to ‘write letters to Queen’ about Jubilee

Schools, get pupils to ‘write letters to Queen’ about Jubilee

YOPEY is appealing for schools in the East of England to ‘write letters to the Queen’ to mark the Platinum Jubilee in a scheme backed by the Queen’s representatives in the region.

All the letters will be shared by YOPEY with elderly people living in care homes. The best letters will then be chosen by YOPEY’s founder, Tony Gearing, who was made an MBE by the Queen.

The best letters will then be forwarded to the Queen by either Tony or the Lord-Lieutenants, who represent Her Majesty in each of the counties that make up the East of England – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

“Elderly people living in care homes are big fans of the Queen,” said Tony. “They will love to be included in these conversations between schoolchildren and the monarch.”

Tony said the young could write about how they celebrated the Platinum Jubilee or they could write about their interests.

He gave these examples:

• A primary age pupil might write: ‘Dear Queen, my name is Molly. I love ponies. I know you love horses. Here is a drawing of me on my pony.’

• An older secondary school student might write: ‘Your Majesty. My name is Tom. When I leave school I want to do a job that involves travel. I’m told you are the Head of the Commonwealth and it contains 54 countries. I have been on holiday to Malta. I understand Malta is a member of the Commonwealth. I believe you have visited many, many countries – which is your favourite? I’d imagine it is ….’

The letters will not just bring smiles to the faces of the elderly, they will be good for people suffering from dementia.

“Even people living with dementia may not have forgotten older events from the Queen’s 70-year reign such as her coronation. Having the young people’s letters read to them will help them to remember.”

The Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Mrs Helen Nellis, said: “I’m delighted to hear that young people are marking Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by writing letters to let The Queen know what they did to celebrate her wonderfully long reign.

“It is so important that we learn about the Monarchy and appreciate just how much the Queen and other members of the Royal Family contribute to this country and the Commonwealth.”

Each letter should be on a single side of paper, then photographed or scanned, and the digital file emailed to Personalised certificates will be made for each school that takes part.

YOPEY used to run Young People of the Year awards, mainly in the East of England, and now runs award-winning befriending schemes between schools and care homes from its HQ in Suffolk.

During the pandemic YOPEY has grown from working with a dozen care homes in the East of England to sending young people’s letters to 2,000 care homes across the UK.

Publication aimed at young people who struggled during pandemic

Publication aimed at young people who struggled during pandemic

This charity’s founder – Tony Gearing MBE – saw young people struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. They feared the disruption of their education had destroyed their future, and many still do.

Tony wondered what he could do to help… From 2004 to 2017 he ran Young People of the Year awards which celebrated young positive role models. He realised they could be role models for a new generation.

He contacted about 20 past Young People of the Year and asked what is the worst thing you have overcome in your life?

The result is a digital publication that is full of awesome, real-life stories of resilience by young adults including a young black girl whose close cousin was shot dead by a drug gang. That girl is now a woman and is a barrister who prosecutes criminal cases and has volunteered at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. A young man quit university because of mental ill health, before the pandemic, and is now working for a premiership football club in his dream job.

Tony believes these inspiring stories of overcoming adversity will help young people realise they can get their lives back on track, and still achieve their goals.

In return for a donation, for as little as £1, to YOPEY, you can download a copy here

Please then share it with any young people you think it could help…


Our Patron – Robert Voss CBE CStJ

Our Patron – Robert Voss CBE CStJ

Pictured with his wife Celia, Robert Voss CBE CStJ is Patron of the YOPEY charity.

The first set of letters after his name stand for Commander of the most excellent order of the British Empire. He was made a CBE in 2014 in the New Year Honours for his ‘Contribution to British Industry and voluntary work in the UK’.

The second set of letters stand for Commander in the Order of St John (CStJ). In 2020, The Queen sanctioned Robert to be honoured with this second title.

Robert first became involved in YOPEY’s work when he attended the Young People of the Year awards in Hertfordshire in 2015 when, as a Deputy Lieutenant, he represented the Lord Lieutenant in the judging of the awards and presented several of the prizes.

He became a Trustee of YOPEY in 2016 but in 2017 he stepped down from the charity’s board when he was invited by the Queen to become the new Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.

Not wanting to lose his skills from 40 years in business and working with many other charities and community groups, YOPEY made him a Patron. Robert takes up the story of his involvement:

“When I first met Tony Gearing and the amazing young people involved in the Young People of the Year Awards I was very keen to somehow become involved. I met a number of young people who had given so much to the community already in their lives and these were the people who would certainly go on to be pillars of their communities.

“When YOPEY Befriender was started by Tony, I was again keen to be involved and I join some of the students visiting care homes around Hertfordshire. The induction they were given into dementia was invaluable to me as well as the young people to understand the way in which dementia effects the mind and memory. Then to join the students in meeting a number of care home residents was very special and the way that the young people interacted with the residents was inspirational.

“I am very proud to be involved in some small way with YOPEY and to meet so many young people who are showing their concern for others in such a tangible way.”

2,000th care home joins YOPEY’s free service during pandemic

2,000th care home joins YOPEY’s free service during pandemic

YOPEY has notched up the 2,000th care home it is supporting for free since the start of the pandemic.

Before coronavirus, this small, registered charity worked in about a dozen homes a year. The charity would recruit and train older schoolchildren to befriend elderly people living with dementia, and support them to visit a care home near their school.

The intergenerational scheme contributed to many of the homes YOPEY worked with being upgraded by the CQC.

When care homes were closed to visitors at the start of the pandemic, YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE thought the charity might fold. “But I came up with the idea of showing our young volunteers how to write letters – something many of the internet generation have never done before. And the young people themselves suggested making crosswords and word searches for the locked-down residents to do, as they had seen the elderly doing these when they were able to visit.”

As well as emailing packs of letters and activities to care homes, YOPEY and the young people have also made short variety shows that can be seen on YouTube and artistic youngsters have been sharing their art and even painting portraits of residents from photos supplied by their care homes.

All materials are shared digitally to absolutely avoid transmitting the virus on surfaces.

“Everything is aimed at stimulating conversations in care homes and sparking reminisces,” said Tony. “And the reports we are getting back from care homes suggest we are achieving that.”

A resident enjoys a YOPEY activity by young people, sent to her care home by this charity

“We think that YOPEY is wonderful and all of your young people are so kind, generous and inspirational,” said Cambridge Manor, a care home in the TLC group.

One of the early joiners to the free scheme was the ExcelCare group of care homes. “The people living at ExcelCare homes have been thankful for the relationship that they have cultivated with YOPEY over the last few years,” said a manager. “The YOPEY Befrienders have sent the people living at our homes so many letters, quizzes, drawings and puzzles each month, and the residents always look forward to their deliveries. They have been such valuable resources over the pandemic and have helped everyone in the home feel connected and loved.”

Bigger groups have also got involved, including HC-One and Four Seasons. “You have really helped our residents through this awful pandemic,” reported Harper Fields, a Barchester care home in Coventry. “We have enjoyed reading your lovely letters to each other over a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. The puzzles have really helped to keep our minds active. Your pictures have been fabulous. You’ve helped make us all feel very special.”

A few residents are able to reply to letter writers and penpal friendships have become established. Other residents give feedback with the help of carers. When a care home feeds back for the first time, it is awarded a Partnership certificate by YOPEY, which it can show to residents’ relatives and the CQC.

YOPEY materials have also got residents out of their chairs and moving. “Our residents loved the singalong video on YouTube, especially the Hokey Cokey which they danced and sang along to,” reported Delves Court, a Select Healthcare care home in Walsall

The number of care and nursing homes that YOPEY sends the young people’s materials to grew to several hundred in the first lockdown. It passed 1,000 by early 2021 and now, in early 2022, it has reach 2,000.

Some care homes have joined from abroad, including a few in Ireland. However the furthest care home is in Australia.

“We spent quite a bit of time today pleasantly submerged in word games. We had a great time – thank you for helping to keep my voracious residents entertained and engaged, Please keep doing what you’re doing,” said Montcler care home in Clermont, Queensland.

Tony added: “We are looking for one more round of care homes to join for free. After that we will be charging a modest monthly subscription fee. We are thinking £5 as we need to generate income to keep this service going.”

Running club raises £1270 for YOPEY

Running club raises £1270 for YOPEY

A sports club from a town near YOPEY’s HQ has raised over £1200 for the charity during the pandemic. Haverhill Running Club raised £1269.58 for YOPEY at the height of covid-19.

The club’s immediate past chair Hayley Wilson presented a cheque to the charity’s founder Tony Gearing MBE in a mini ceremony, attended by other club members, in the Suffolk town.

YOPEY – which is short for Young People of the Year – runs befriending schemes between schools and care homes, and trains young people to relate to elderly people living with dementia.

Tony, who manages YOPEY from his home in Stradishall, a village near Haverhill, said: “When the pandemic started, care homes were among the first places to lock down and our young volunteers, known as YOPEY Befrienders, which includes young people from Haverhill, could not visit their elderly friends.

“For a while I thought YOPEY would have to close, but then I had the old-fashioned idea of getting the YOPEY Befrienders to write letters. The young people suggested compiling crosswords and word searches as they had often seen the elderly doing these in care homes.

  Pictured: Hayley and Tony hold the giant cheque. From the top of the stairs HRC members Grace Judge, Sil Clay, Clare Everett, James Minnette and junior members Harry (12), Charlie (14) and Josh (15)

“Haverhill Running Club’s support during the difficult years of 2020 and 2021 encouraged me to keep YOPEY going, and, despite my earlier fears, the charity has actually grown during 2020 and 2021.

“Today, YOPEY Befrienders from a dozen schools in the East of England are supporting residents in about 2,000 care homes UK-wide and even a few abroad, as far away as Australia. The support continues to be ‘virtual’ – care homes are not ready to receive visits from groups of young people – but YOPEY has survived covid, stronger than ever.”

Hayley said: “Haverhill Running Club knows how difficult it was to remain active during coronavirus. We could not hold all our usual events. However, when we could, we organised race refreshments to raise funds for YOPEY, including during the Suffolk leg of The Women’s Tour top cycle race.”

Many of the club’s 200-plus members ran alone during lockdowns, and some of these got these solo runs sponsored in aid of YOPEY.

“We’re please we could help another organisation that found ways to remain active during the pandemic.”