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Volunteers to take on more mental health support roles in Powys

Text Mental Health appearing behind torn brown paper with drawn human brain on it.

Volunteers are going to play a bigger role in supporting patients with poor mental health in Powys, in the future.

The county’s teaching health board has trialled the use of Anchor Buddies, recruited by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO), with its community mental health team in Brecon and is looking to expand the scheme.

Anchor Buddies are used to provide additional support to patients who need help with their mental health, either on a one-to-one basis or through group activities such as walking or gardening; and could also be used to help patients, experiencing anxiety, to visit places like restaurants or cinemas when restrictions allow.

Catherine Arnold, Powys Teaching Health Board’s Integrated Team Leader with Ty Illtyd Community Mental Health Team, in Brecon, said: “We have found there is a significant amount of anxiety amongst our patient population about re-entering social situations again, because of being in a high-risk category with Covid-19. People using our services want to participate, but their confidence has been knocked by 12 months of self-isolation to a greater or lesser degree.

“Meeting up for a chat, in a local coffee shop, with a volunteer, would also be beneficial to many of our patients, providing an opportunity for greater social interaction within their own community.”

Patients could also be asked to become volunteers themselves, as part of the scheme, once they have made progress, as a further aid to their own recovery.

Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB) is also working on plans to use volunteers as Tech Buddies to help mental health patients, with limited digital skills, to access appointments, or further information about their condition or their hobbies and interests, online.

Louisa Kerr, PTHB’s Interim Head of Mental Health Operations, added: “Some of our patients need support to get logged on and to be able to attend therapy groups and to attend on-line one-to-one sessions with our mental health practitioners and clinical staff. And this is an area where volunteers could be very useful.

“Volunteers won’t be replacing paid members of staff; they will be working alongside patients to provide additional support with the aim of improving the services we deliver.”

Tech Buddies have been helping patients, across a range of services, to access virtual clinics via Attend Anywhere appointments during the coronavirus pandemic. These have allowed them to connect with healthcare staff via a video call using a computer, tablet or smartphone, instead of meeting face-to-face.

The community mental health team in Brecon was also successful in bidding for a £1,500 grant from the Powys Teaching Health Board Charity’s COVID Response Fund which will be spent on a new sensory garden at Ty Illtyd. The charity’s COVID Response Fund has been made possible by the NHS Charities Together national COVID-19 fundraising appeal, which includes the amazing fundraising efforts of Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Volunteers will play an important part in creating and maintaining the new garden, so that staff and patients can once again enjoy the outdoors and the benefits that this will bring to them all.

Opportunities to volunteer with PTHB, and many other organisations in Powys, can be found on the volunteering Wales website:

Help and support to register as a volunteer is available from PAVO. Please email or ring 01597 822191.

PAVO is also the organisation to go to if you are looking to recruit volunteers for your organisation or within your community, or if you want any help for your voluntary group or organisation.