What does your job entail?
My job is to coordinate the service and part of my job is to recruit and train volunteers. We identify women in Sefton who are experiencing challenges which affects their emotional wellbeing. We provide each woman with a volunteer to visit them weekly for up to 12 months. We support them and put together a positive action plan to help them move forward and engage in the community. We do this in a few ways. It can be basic home visits for a volunteer to have a chat to support woman to develop her social skills if she has been isolated for a while. But we also assist with practical tasks like going to visit GPs.
One of the reasons the service was set up was that there are issues around emotional wellbeing and poor mental health with the women we support. There is an impact on physical health because they are reluctant to go to the doctors, so a lot of things can be overlooked that can be a sign of physical conditions. There is a higher mortality rate for people who have mental health conditions because of that. The volunteer can help them with social activities to help a woman go to her GP or to the job centre with her. They can help with tasks that a woman may struggle to do independently. The volunteer can visit them for up to two hours each week.
What do you do in a day?
Every day is different really. But on a typical day, my job is to research and put training together. My role is to have consistent communication with each woman who is referred to the service. I will contact women regularly to make sure everything is going well. Also, I make sure that the women are matched up with a suitable befriending volunteer, and we help women to access other services and activities in their community, as well as our engaging with other services available at SWAN,.
What services can women access as well as SWAN?
Each woman is completely different who engages with the service. We might have a woman whose 12- month action plan is to get back into employment, so that would include engaging with services such as Shaw Trust and Sefton at Work as part of her action plan.
But the next woman could be completely different. For example, she has a 12-month plan to go shopping independently. It is looking at travel support and also to identify services for her anxiety and places where she can go and get support with that. For instance, identifying counselling with SWAN or more specialist service.
What does the training of volunteers involve?
Our training covers six weeks of two hour workshops, so we ask volunteers to commit to attending them. Part of that is to find out whether they are suitable to become a befriender, and if they understand the role. It is to help the volunteers get to know each other as a team, but it is also looking and communication skills, empathy and confidentiality. We also do training around equality and diversity. The Befriending Service is geared towards us understanding the needs of each individual woman and showing them that we are not coming from a place of judgement, but we are coming from a place of support and empathy.
We also train volunteers regarding adult safe guarding so each woman understands the process of helping somebody and supporting them through difficult times. It goes over things like our emergency procedures, our lone working policy, so we go over everything to cover you in terms of safety of the volunteer and the woman who is receiving the support.
What is the best thing about your job?
It is one of the most positive workplaces I have been in. The team are really warm and supportive and they are really focused on what they do. Every colleague who I have worked with either have worked here for years and years because of their level of commitment to it, and they have got so much experience. I like the fact that it is a community. There is longevity. I really feel welcome and proud to be part of it.
In what ways does SWAN benefit women?
Getting to know new people, that is really nice. The team members, the volunteers but especially the women who are engaging in our services. It is so warming and interesting to meet new people with such valuable stories to tell.
In what ways do you think SWAN benefits the women who you work with?
I think because are main focus is empowerment and supporting people to be able to work towards independence and helping themselves. Mental health and emotional wellbeing is a really broad context to work within and each woman has their individual journey, and I think SWAN has a really calm approach to moving forward and supports women to be part of the community.
I think one of the main reasons people return to us is because it is a productive environment, there is lots of different things for people to do. It could be coming to a coffee afternoon or learning a new skill for example creative writing. It is such a creative environment to work within and such a positive one to come to and that is why we are so effective.
What do you do in your spare time?
I am really interested in creative writing. I do performance poetry and I’ve got two awesome children. I love film and socialising.