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Increased volunteering opportunities for those with mental illness thanks to bureau

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In February, the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire will launch VCme, a programme designed to help those with medium to long-term mental health disorders to volunteer within their communities and break down the stigma surrounding mental health.
Under the scheme, volunteers will embark on their first round of duties with someone from the volunteer centre, who will offer support, advice and help to build self-confidence.
The scheme will cost around £25,000 a year to run, £15,000 of which is being provided by Greenham Common Trust and £4,000 from the Sovereign Regional Panel. A further £6,000 is anticipated from the Public Health Board.
The funding will help to provide a dedicated co-ordinator to interview volunteers with mental health issues, as well as training for eight to 10 new volunteers and staff at organisations that will make use of the scheme.
Volunteer Centre director Garry Poulson said he wanted to have at least 30 organisations sign up to the VCme scheme in its first year.
“We will provide training for organisations so that they will feel confident in having somebody with mental illness and be aware how to react with someone who may suddenly burst into tears for no reason or want to have some time-out,” he said.
“The organisations may not have the knowledge and understanding of the issues that people with medium and long-term mental health issues may have.
“We want to de-stigmatise the issues around mental health. This is a health issue like any other.
“Mental health now is such a massive part of the Government’s agenda because it’s costing the NHS a huge amount of money in drugs, support and so on.
“We don’t want to waste people’s interest in being involved in the community just because they have a mental illness.
“We want to remove as many barriers as we can to mental health. We want people to be comfortable around it, embrace it and understand it.”
For more information on the scheme and how you can get involved, as an organisation or a volunteer, contact the volunteer centre by calling (01635) 49004 or emailing info@vcwb.org.uk

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