I was delighted to be invited to Lanarkshire Samaritans in Hamilton to help them celebrate their 40th birthday.
The Samaritans opened their first Scottish branch in Edinburgh in 1959, with the Lanarkshire branch opening 13 years later, in November 1972.
The Samaritans offers confidantial, compassionate and non-judgemental advice and guidance to those in distress. Whether you are clinically depressed, weighed down by health or money worries, or just having a bit of a bad time: the Samaritans is here to help.
On average, Lanarkshire Samaritans fields between 6-8000 calls, 150 face-to-face meetings, and around 400 emails every year.
Their volunteers go through a rigorous training program and are highly committed to the organisation. Many have been Samaritans for between 10 and 20 years.
As well as their listening and advisory service, Lanarkshire Samaritans runs outreach programmes in local schools, hospitals and prisons. Regardless of your circumstances and whatever your problem, they will listen and do their best to help.
I would like to thank everyone who has volunteered for Lanarkshire Samaritans over the past 4o years for doing their best to ensure that people in emotional pain and distress have someone to talk to. A little bit of sympathy and kindness can make a world of difference.
The Samaritans’ national phone service can be contacted at any time of the day or night, and their Lanarkshire office is open from 9am-2am for four nights of the week, and 9am-5am for the remaining three. Individuals wishing to speak to someone in person can visit the office at 4 Selkirk Place, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, ML3 6RQ, between 9am and 9pm.
It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to spend time working at the Wishaw Barnado’s shop to help promote Make a Difference Day 2012.
The staff and volunteers are enormously passionate, committed and hardworking, and I would like to thank them all for inviting me to volunteer and for being so kind and welcoming.
Barnado’s counselling and support services provide invaluable advice and assistance to thousands of victims and potential victims of poverty, neglect, homelessness and abuse across the UK.
With government funding increasingly restricted, the money provided by its charity shops is crucial. It is imperative, therefore, that people continue to support their local charity shops, either through volunteering, donating unwanted possessions or by shopping there whenever possible.
Barnado’s relies upon the generosity of local people, but in turn it provides fantastic products at very affordable prices.
Volunteering is a very rewarding experience; just a couple of hours a week can make a big difference. I would encourage anyone else who has a bit of spare time to get in touch with Barnado’s to see what they can do to help.
I recently attended the latest committee meeting of the North Lanarkshire Disability Forum in Motherwell.
Formed in 1991, the North Lanarkshire Disability Forum is a voluntary organisation run by disabled people, for disabled people. It offers support, information, advice and guidance to disabled people and their carers across a range of issues, including community services, transport, health, welfare, and housing.
As ever, I was struck by the level of commitment exhibited by the committee members on behalf of those they support and represent. They spoke with passion – and frequently anger – about the many challenges facing disabled people across North Lanarkshire, in particular the punitive changes to disability benefits contained within the Welfare Reform Bill.
As well as discussing the ramifications of the Welfare Reform Bill, the NLDF raised a number of other issues pertaining to disabled people, which I am determined to pursue with the relevant authorities.
Sadly, and despite the vital service they provide, the NLDF exists within a perpetual funding crisis. With no core funding, the organisation is left in a constant state of flux, with no concrete certainty as to its operating budget from year to year. Given the increased pressure and demand that will undoubtedly result from the Welfare Reform Bill, this state of affairs is highly unsatisfactory, and the Scottish Government must act now to ensure that the NLDF, along with other community and voluntary organisations, has the funds it needs to continue providing support.
Organisations like the North Lanarkshire Disability Forum are of critical importance; we must do all we can to protect them, whilst ensuring that they have the necessary funds to expand and improve their services.
I recently met with senior management at Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL), the Airdrie based development agency and membership network open to third sector organisations throughout North Lanarkshire.
Formed in 2010 following the amalgamation of the Council for Voluntary Services and the Voluntary Centre, VANL seeks to forge closer working links between third sector bodies in North Lanarkshire. It is the central point of contact for information, advice and support on voluntary action, and represents the sector in discussions with local community planning partnerships.
VANL currently supports between 350-400 voluntary organisations and in excess of 1800 volunteers in the local authority area, providing them with a comprehensive range of resources including organisational and financial support, advice on sourcing and obtaining funding, and bespoke training for volunteers.
The meeting was very informative, and I was favourably impressed by VANL’s role as an essential advice and support network for local volunteer and community groups. VANL staff and employees are highly trained and extremely knowledgeable, and I would advice all local volunteer groups to take advantage of their expertise.
With the coalition Governments programme of austerity measures cutting back on public services, the burden on the third sector will increase exponentially. It is imperative, therefore, that third sector funding is kept at a sustainable level, and that the role of volunteer groups is not diluted, but remains clearly defined.