Matthew Neville

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust secures funding to launch “community befriending scheme”

An NHS Trust has successfully secured a funding bid to re-introduce a volunteering scheme, aimed at giving people living in the community independence.

The Voluntary Services team, part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), are now preparing to roll out the Community Befriending scheme, 10 years after its inception.

The scheme will be available for service users who either have a planned imminent discharge date or are living in the community and using community services.

Service users will be matched up with a volunteer befriender and will meet weekly to do an activity they enjoy. The scheme aims to promote people’s independence and recovery and break down stigma around mental health and learning disabilities.

Voluntary services manager Wendy Spratt, said: “We have found many service users have said they feel isolated, especially within the last two years because of the pandemic, and often don’t see anyone apart from healthcare professionals at an appointment.

“The scheme will allow service users to meet with someone and do the things that we often take for granted, like going for a walk or meeting for a cup of tea or visiting museums and galleries. It’s the little things that can have the biggest impact.”

The renewal of the scheme has been made possible thanks to funding from NHS England and Improvement.

Bethany Stuart has been volunteering as a community befriender in the Trust for many years. She began volunteering to improve her CV when applying to study Psychology at university. What was initially going to be six months, has turned into nearly 10 years.

She explained:Bethany visits a service user once a week. “We got to know each other and now have a proper friendship. It might not be cool because the service user is in her 70s, but she’s one of my best friends. She’s a massive part of my life and I can’t imagine not seeing her.”

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