Volunteering makes a big difference to our carers

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Carers Trust Fylde Coast couldn’t help serve the needs of 3,500 local carers – let alone attempt to reach up to 13,000 more living locally – without the help of 135 volunteers...and it needs more as the service grows to reach hidden carers from what will become its new HQ at Beaverbrook House, Newton Drive. In the fifth of our special features for National Carers Week, local volunteers reveal it may not pay but there are plenty of other rewards..

Carole Hirst – ‘Volunteer and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel’

“When I retired in 2005 I had always said I would have a year off - some time for myself, more time to spend with my mum.

Sadly she died in November 2005.

“I never thought of myself as her carer - I was her daughter.

“My husband Clive became a trustee of the carers’ centre in 2007. I began volunteering at the carers’ centre about seven years ago. I felt more comfortable behind the scenes but still tried to make a difference. I dreaded being asked to phone carers to check information held on the data base but eventually looked forward to it –often they wanted to chat.

“I’d pass any concerns or worries they had to the appropriate member of staff. Sometimes listening was all that was needed. I recorded volunteer hours – all are recognised and appreciated. I even got presented with certificates myself, for my own hours, by local MP Paul Maynard.

“Why do I keep coming back? It’s being able to help support the staff, be it in a small way, to do their fantastic work – providing the best possible support for carers.

“They are always supportive and patient.

Volunteering isn’t ‘just’ for do-gooders.

“Everyone should consider it, whether just helping a neighbour shopping, visiting people, gardening, giving time or being a trustee.

“We all have abilities and strengths that can benefit others and you would be amazed at how much better you feel in yourself.”

David Roskell - ‘I feel useful again’

“I’ve been unemployed for over four years. I’m on a work project scheme where long term unemployed do 30 hours of unpaid work a week in order to claim benefits.

I was put on placement with the Carers Trust at the Drop-In centre on Church Street by Learn Direct.

When I first met Jo Henderson, the volunteer coordinator, and other staff and volunteers, I didn’t know what to expect.

“After being unemployed for so long and having no choice as to whether I wanted to volunteer I was depressed, angry and insecure with the situation.

“But the last three months of working there have been extremely positive.

“Staff and volunteers make you feel part of their team.

“I have been given many different jobs that require different skills, some of which I surprised myself by having

“I’ve had contact with clients, I’ve been trusted to handle cash in the charity shops, help people fill in forms, attended meetings in clients’ homes alongside workers, organised feedback, represented the charity at events, and arranged counselling sessions.

I’ve completed training, helped with reception and main phones, and general office administration.

“Now I’m helping the hospital project team with admin and arranging trips for adult male carers. This involves liaising with businesses to try and get a concession for the charity and the carers.

“But the most important part of my job is to make a manager or project worker aware of any concerns I may have about a client’s wellbeing.

“This placement has made me want to work in the caring sector.

“It’s increased my confidence, skills and experience. It’s been extremely enjoyable and worthwhile, especially when I’ve been able to give practical help to people who really needed it.

“Most importantly I feel useful again. I now know I can do a good job – and help make a difference to the lives of others.”

Jo Henderson, volunteers coordinator, pictured above at charity ball, added: “As our organisation grows, so the workload increases.

“Our volunteers are an essential part of Carers Trust Fylde Coast and enable us to carry out the high quality work that we do with and for our carers.

“They have an array of different skills and abilities and are actively encouraged and invited to utilise them and learn new ones working with as many (or few) of the projects as they choose and providing robust support for project workers.

“We are extremely proud of our volunteers and are so fortunate to have so many people prepared to give up their precious time, to help us.

“They add so much value to our organisation and without them we would not be as successful as we are.”