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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Volunteers come forward to help crisis-hit west Cumbrian charity

Volunteers have been stepping forward to help a crisis charity which warned it could close unless people supported it.

David Earley photo
David Earley

The Samaritans of West Cumbria appealed for support through the News & Star as volunteer numbers plummeted, throwing the service’s future into uncertainty.

Leaders of the charity have said that although there has been a good response from people showing interest, it “can’t relax” and has to keep planning for the future.

The charity has been established in Whitehaven for 40 years and provides confidential, emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.

David Earley, deputy director for recruitment, warned last month that if the situation did not improve the charity could cease to exist in west Cumbria as early as January.

The blow came at a time when new figures revealed parts of the county – particularly Copeland – are suffering some of the highest rates of suicide and hospital admissions for self-harm in the country.

However, Mr Earley has now said that the charity is “very happy” with the early results, but know through past experience that numbers will inevitably be reduced during the initial introduction, selection process and training programme.

“We are very careful that prospective volunteers know what they are signing up to because it can be emotionally demanding and this is why they often choose not to proceed, because listening is not for them.

“Because of this, we can’t relax and have to keep planning for the future. Nobody in the branch is paid as we are all volunteer, but we reimburse expenses as a volunteer is not expected to be out of pocket.

“However, we are very pleased with the way things are going at the moment.”

At the moment there are 34 volunteers situated at Whitehaven’s Church Road, who provide a listening ear for people needing to talk, but a further 20 are needed.

According to the Department of Health, the average suicide rate in England for 2010-12 was eight people per 100,000. In that time, 33 people in Copeland ended their lives making it the second-highest rate in the country. Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer, as they will be offered full training.

In Whitehaven they can expect to work a three to four-hour shift each week as well as an overnight shift every four to six weeks.

There will be an informal information day on Sunday, September 14 between 2pm and 3.30pm at the Whitehaven branch.

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