Arthritis Care (West Berks) is looking for more volunteers to support its popular and expanding drop-in service. This is a great opportunity for volunteers to directly help local people with arthritis to access the information they need to manage their condition and lead a full and active life.
Did you know that arthritis is the biggest cause of pain and physical disability in the UK, that there are 200 different types of arthritis, or that children can be diagnosed with the condition or even be born with it? Although there is no cure for arthritis, there is plenty that people can do to cope with the condition and get the most out of life.
Arthritis Care run drop-ins where volunteers talk to people with arthritis and provide information about the condition, diet, exercise, surgery and more. Volunteers also provide self management information and signpost people to local organisations and support services. There are drop-in centres in community venues in Reading, Caversham, Tilehurst, Pangbourne, Newbury, Wokingham, Thatcham and Hungerford.
You don’t need to have any personal experience of arthritis in order to become a volunteer, but you do need to be a people person who is willing to learn. Volunteers can choose their local area and receive full training and full support from Arthritis Care staff who attend the drop-ins.
Sue Baynes, from Fleet in Hampshire, helps out at Greyfriars Church in Reading, a particularly busy centre. Sue suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis herself. She really enjoys her role which sees her also visit other drop-ins around West Berks. She said:
“I’ve seen six people today and I’ve had a great morning. It’s good to know you are helping people cope with their condition in a positive way.”
Sue explained: “I have a counselling background so I know how to relate to people. I needed to learn about all the different types of arthritis which meant I attended the initial full training.”
One of Sue’s clients was Elaine Duncan who suffers from osteoarthritis. Sue was able to show Elaine various implements to make life easier as well as advise her to request hydrotherapy through her GP. Elaine said: “I was referred here by my GP. Sue recommended I try out compression gloves on my hands as they are very stiff in the morning. I’d never heard of them but I was impressed and am going to get some!”
Arthritis Care (West Berks) works in partnership with Berkshire West NHS to provide services for four clinical commissioning groups. GPs within the four groups can refer their patients to Arthritis Care for extra support. Clients can choose to attend a drop-in service (usually held weekly), receive peer support by phone or attend a workshop.
Following an extension to its contract, Arthritis Care is about to expand its services to support more people. Debbie Holden, Arthritis Care, estimates that the service helps 700 to 800 people a year but said: “With the expansion we’d like to see 2,000 people a year.”
To support this major expansion, many more volunteers are needed to help run the drop-ins. Volunteers would also have further opportunities to provide telephone support and lead workshops if they wish.
Debbie explained: “We make sure every venue is accessible and near public transport, not only for the clients but for our volunteers too. We talk to people about their choices, we don’t tell them what to do. A volunteer needs to be a good listener who can talk to people with empathy. We offer induction training and a buddy system at the drop-ins so volunteers have someone experienced sitting with them contributing to the conversation.”
Inspired to make a real difference for people with arthritis, or want to find out more? Take a look at:
Read more about Arthritis Care