Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 08.09.26SIX VOLUNTEERS FROM ACROSS the community in the west of the city have come forward to help their friends and neighbours.

Drawn from all walks of life, the ‘community helpers’ are funded by the West Area Committee and local Clinical Commissioning Group(CCG) to provide support, information and advice to people on aspects of daily life.

Trained appropriately and equipped with both the knowledge and the experience to carry our such a role, the ‘helpers’ also work closely with local GP practices to put people in touch with the services, groups and a activities which could improve their physical, emotional and economic health.

The project began in January with funding and support from the West Area Committee whose Chair, Councillor Peter Gibson said: “The project is focussed on helping people make better decisions on lifestyles and health, by having someone there in the community who they can talk to informally and point them in the right direction for the type of individual help and support they need.

“All our Community Helpers have that valuable local knowledge needed to identify those most in need of our help, who are also often the most reluctant to come forward to ask for it, and provide a friendly well informed face of someone they can talk to.

” Each one is also well known and respected within their respective communities, and part of the local volunteer network which helps us provide such a wide range of resources and facilities at a local level.”

The six Community Helpers (www.sunderland.gov.uk/community-helpers) are ;

St Anne’s – Bill Leach
Sandhill – Courtney Tuckerman
St Chad’s – Margy Cain
Pallion – Karen Ramage
Barnes – Sophie Clinton
Silksworth – Joanne Laverick

Community Helper for Silksworth, Joanne Laverick said: “I’ve received so much training I really feel able to support my local community to make informed choices, to improve their lives and their lifestyles.

“Working along with local GP Practices has been fantastic as well as working alongside my fellow Community Helpers across the six wards – we’re all learning from each other and it’s a real team  effort.

“We urge residents to get in touch – that’s what we’re here for after all!”

​The training and support received by Community Helpers includes;
– Public Health; the opportunity to become a ‘Health Champion’ which provides five training modules to increase awareness of a range of physical and mental health issues and the local services available to address them, and links to the ‘Live Life Well Service’ which provides a practical support network of events, activities and advice.
– Dementia Awareness; training from Essence which is an charitable agency providing help and support to dementia sufferers and their families/carers.
– Introductory meeting with Community ICT; Sunderland City Council’s Community ICT provides access, training and equipment for people and groups who need to use computers, laptops etc to increase employability, connectivity, health awareness etc.
– West Locality Children’s Services; guidance on the network of support available to help young people and their families identify and address individual issues eg school attendance/attainment, welfare and well-being.
– Introductory meeting with GP Practice Managers; meeting local health practitioners to develop better understanding of available services, opening times, prescription arrangements etc.
-Welfare advice and referral; guidance on benefits eligibility and which agencies and organisation can provide people with further specialist advice/information on individual economic circumstances.
– Meeting with community librarian and the offer of the library services; awareness of the locally available resources and facilities such as book loans, IT services and online learning.