07 June 2017

We are saying a big thank you to the hundreds of people who give their time and energy to support the work of the  Trust. We currently have over 300 volunteers in London, Luton and Bedfordshire based in 160 inpatient units and community settings in different volunteer roles. 

The contribution that they make enhances the services we provide.  It is also an opportunity for volunteers to develop new skills and have experiences which contribute to their personal growth and development. 

Anne Lacey, the Trust's Volunteer Coordinator, said,

"Volunteering across the Trust continues to grow in popularity. Our volunteers come from a range of backgrounds, such as students, retirees, people who have used our services, carers and those wishing to take up employment within mental health care.

We are planning to hold a celebration event later in the summer to which all our volunteers will be invited. But we are asking staff to take a few minutes this week to say 'Thank You' and tell them how much they help their service."

Staff have found that volunteers bring in new ideas and enthusiasm.  Volunteers have been placed across various departments including in-patient units (usually assisting Occupational Therapists with activities), community settings (usually assisting in a befriending type role for those who may need some support regarding social isolation and building confidence and self-esteem); this has proved invaluable in departments such as Perinatal Services.  

We also have a number of teams who have taken advantage of ‘Meet and Greet’ volunteers – perhaps on busy outpatient days to ensure that service users are given information, undertake surveys as required and have someone to talk to while they are waiting, especially if they are new to using our services.  

Since Luton and Bedfordshire joined the Trust, we are now supporting teams who are taking advantage of volunteer assistance in various roles from alcohol and substance misuse, community café and art and craft groups.  We are working with volunteer networks in the area to promote our volunteer opportunities.

For service users, volunteers provide time and interest in them as individuals which helps build confidence and self-esteem and a chance to undertake visits and activities to reduce social isolation.  It also gives them contact with someone who is not their support worker or a family member, which sometimes makes it easier to talk about a variety of issues.  Befriending is a major component of this type of work and will be a major recruitment focus over the next few months. 

Volunteers gain from experience and an invaluable training programme (3 days compulsory training for all) which helps build their knowledge, breaks down stigma and discrimination around mental health and chronic illness, and provides the volunteers with confidence to undertake their volunteering tasks. 

A number of our volunteers have obtained employment within our and other Trusts in various roles or within private sector care organisations and so it proves that volunteering can aid the pathway to employment which is not always easy these days.

If you wish to find out more about becoming a volunteer please contact Ann Lacey, Trust Volunteer Coordinator on 020 7655 4169 or via email: ann.lacey@elft.nhs.uk or look on our Volunteering webpage to see current volunteering opportunities.