Every effort has been made to ensure no one feels alone at one Birmingham church – thanks to the creation of a buddy system.

Kate Ellis, of St Margaret Mary in Perry Common, got the scheme going just before lockdown came into force.

There are now 26 buddying partners who are in regular contact with around 25 parishioners (some of whom are couples) to make sure they do not feel isolated.

At least once a week buddying partners contact buddies by phone for a chat, and some are also helping with shopping.

Kate (pictured) said she channelled her own nervous energy into launching the scheme: “About a week to 10 days before the lockdown I was feeling quite anxious myself and could sense other people were as well about the growing death rate, the increase in the spread of the virus and just fear of becoming ill.

“I decided to channel some of the nervous energy in to doing something positive. I spoke to the congregations at both the Saturday and Sunday masses and asked them to volunteer to be buddy partners or let me know if they wanted a buddy.”

Kate took on the role of coordinator and matched people needing a buddy with a buddy partner.

And although some buddying partners - a mix of men and women of all ages - are without a buddy at the moment it gives flexibility.

“We have had some good feedback," said Kate. “People have said they feel cared for and appreciate that the church is reaching out to them.

“It has brought people together, some of whom did not know each other before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Speaking personally, when I was ill myself with Covid, others in the network stepped up to look after my buddy when I couldn't so I think it has been a good initiative for building relationships across the parish.”

Kate added the buddying network is set to continue in some form beyond lockdown as some elderly and vulnerable people will still have to be shielded.

There will also be a need to continue the church’s foodbank with the same volunteering spirit that has been sparked by the pandemic.