Volunteers are a vital part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and add huge value to NHS services, bringing skills and experience through roles including research, befriending, gardening, and activity coordination.
The Volunteer Service at South London and Maudsley has been lauded in a report by the Kings Fund in 2021 as an example of a trust which has “adopted approaches that optimised the impact and value of volunteering.”
Over a three-year period from 2022-25 we’ve committed £432,950 in funding to the service.
Bringing added value
Volunteers contribute in a variety of different roles, including ward-based roles, befriending projects, research, gardening, library assistants, Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery volunteers, and sports and walking groups. Volunteers help to add value to the services provided by staff and often bring new skills and experience, helping to engage service users in becoming active in their recovery.
Many volunteers have been carers for a family member living with mental illness. Others are looking for experience in the mental health sector as a potential career path. Nearly half are former or current service users who use volunteering as part of their own journey to a more fulfilling life or back into paid employment.
Natashia led a Saturday walking group for inpatients from Claire Ward at Lewisham Hospital’s Ladywell Unit.
Claire Ward is an inpatient unit for men aged 18 to 65 experiencing acute psychiatric illness. The ward can be a busy environment and providing patients with time off the ward, to get some fresh air and connect with nature, was well received by both patients and staff.
Natashia said, “The weather doesn’t seem to deter patients from wanting to come out for a walk. On most occasions, they want to come, even in the cold – a great testimony of how appreciative service users are for this opportunity.
“I’ve had really positive feedback from patients and staff, and we know that these walks really do make a difference to the lives of service users, staff and even the volunteers.”
She continues, “It’s a really humbling experience to hear and share our stories with people we don’t even know personally, but who are connected in a beautifully profound way – it’s really encouraging, inspiring and powerful.”
Young volunteers making a difference
Younger volunteers can really make a difference in the lives of their peers, by being a relatable source of guidance. In 2022/23 volunteers aged 15-25 made up 50% of total volunteers.
From August 2018 until August 2020, Maudsley Charity funded The Youth Volunteer Project. It provided opportunities for young volunteers aged 16-25 to get involved in mental health service delivery. It was part of the national #IWill campaign for youth volunteering, launched by three political parties and HRH The Prince of Wales in 2013.
Sarah Rodway-Swanson led the programme and was responsible for encouraging more young people to be socially active and engaged in mental health provision. She was the only one out of 25 other Volunteer Coordinators in the #IWill campaign to be based in an NHS mental health service.
CAMHS Mentoring Project
One legacy of the Youth Volunteering Project is the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Mentoring Project which matches volunteers on a one-to-one basis with current young service users. The pair meet regularly to access community activities together and build a relationship. Volunteer mentors are someone the service user can have fun with, try new things with, and talk to for informal support.
Volunteer mentors are expected to be prepared to support and accompany young people to do things they would like to. That might involve a walk in the park, a visit to a cafe, a trip to the cinema, joining a youth group or finding an art workshop.
Maudsley Charity currently provides funding for this initiative.
Irfan, a recent mentor remarked, “Because of the unique position we have as mentors, our relationships with our mentees are quite flexible…allowing us to communicate on a more personal level. They could learn from our experiences and make the appropriate decisions from there. That in itself is life-changing as we get to empower and equip them with the right information for them to take the next steps.”
“And because we get to explore other fun activities like playing games, we get to have fun too! My mentee has a PS3 and Switch, and we would occasionally play them together.”
Read more about the rewarding experiences of CAMHS Mentors.
The volunteering service has been praised for the diversity of its membership, which ensures that it reflects the makeup of the population served by the Trust.
In 2022/23 of the 324 volunteers, 58% come from a minority ethnic background and many of these have signed up to the specialist group Msaada (a Swahili word meaning ‘giving back’) to support people from Black and racially minoritised communities who are living with a mental illness.
Watch a video about Msaada below.
Help us to fund more volunteers
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