The Befriending Project provided by the Trust has been awarded the APS – Approved Provider Standard by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF).
The Befriending Project provides one to one support and encouragement to people who use Trust services who are experiencing mental health difficulties. It aims to aid recovery by supporting service users to interact with people who share similar interests and develop long-term friendships. The misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental health problems can often lead to people with mental health difficulties feeling isolated and alone. Through this project the Trust provides companionship to help aid their recovery.
The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF) provides services, such as training, resources and membership, to help increase the effectiveness and quality of mentoring and befriending. Its Approved Provider Standard (APS). is the national quality standard specifically designed for mentoring and befriending projects. To achieve the APS accreditation, which lasts three years, the Trust’s Befriending Project had to demonstrate that it fully met all 12 elements of the standard, which evaluate the key management and operational areas.
Mike Gartland, head of the Trust’s pastoral and spiritual care team that manages the project, said, “We are delighted to have been awarded the APS quality standard as this is a testament to the commitment and passion of our befrienders. The accreditation gives a guarantee that there are standards and securities in place and gives the scheme an added quality.”
Service users are referred to the scheme by various health and social care practitioners and are then matched up with a befriender according to gender, age and interests. The befriender and service user meet on a regular basis and participate in a mutually agreed activity; this might be walking, shopping or simply just having a chat. The process is reviewed regularly to make sure that both parties are happy and benefitting from the project. There are three different types of befriending; they are community befriending, inpatient unit befriending and forensic services befriending.
Angie Barker, befriending project development worker said, “You can become a volunteer befriender if you are aged over 18 and can offer a regular commitment of time on a weekly/fortnightly basis, for a period of at least 12 months, to build and maintain a supportive relationship with a service user. Many befrienders have themselves been service users and have personal experience of many of the issues faced by people with mental health difficulties. All befrienders are provided with training to prepare them for the role and access to a range of ongoing training to further improve their skills and support their personal development. Staff from the project provide one to one support to befrienders and run support meetings on a regular basis.”
Prior to starting work all volunteer befrienders must provide suitable references and are subject to the necessary health clearance and CRB checks. All befrienders must be willing to act within the Trust’s guidelines.
But it’s not just the service users who benefit from the scheme, befrienders have also reported that they have experienced an increase in their own self confidence and motivation as a result of being part of the project.
Ron and Bev are befrienders together. Ron said, “We have been seeing one gentleman for about 12 months and in that time he has come on leaps and bounds. During our time spent with him we’ve been able to find hobbies and interests that we can do together to help him engage. All I can describe the experience as is magic!”
Shirley, who has been a befriender for the last two years, said, “Having used Trust services myself I really wanted to give something back and help other people. I have been able to use my personal experience and insight to help.”
Nigel, who has also used mental health services provided by the Trust said, “I wanted to be able to help people make the little changes, which then lead to big changes. I have only just started as a befriender but due to the work done by the service in finding myself and my befriendee a good match our first meeting was great and felt very natural. There were no awkward moments and I’m already looking forward to future meetings.”
Gary, who is a befriender said, “My role has been very important as part of my own recovery from depression. When we have finished seeing our counsellor we must use the tools we have to carry on with recovery. Befriending is part of this ongoing process and has helped me recover completely; now i can go on and help others in the same way.”
Mike added,” The Befriending Scheme is so important to our service users as it helps them see their worth. They value the experience it gives them and that people are volunteering and choosing to spend time with them.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer befriender contact Angie Barker on 01924 327317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org