Volunteer peer supporters sought for those with eating disorders and difficulties

Volunteer peer supporters sought for those with eating disorders and difficulties

A Southampton not-for-profit organisation is calling for volunteers for its new Peer Support Network helping people with both diagnosed and undiagnosed eating disorders and eating difficulties and their carers.

 Options Wellbeing Trust on Shirley Road is looking for people who can donate their time to support others online, in face-to-face groups and on a one-to-one basis.

 Wendy Lee (pictured), Head of Health and Wellbeing, says: “We have recently received a funding boost to help us with the delivery of our essential new Peer Support Network in partnership with fellow charity tastelife UK. We were awarded £13,520 for the project, with 50% of the funding provided by No Wrong Door and the remainder matched by Social Care in Action’s (SCiA) community Action Fund.

 “Because of this, we’re now able to work with adults, side by side, offering much greater support for free via three new ways: online with self-help tools, with volunteer peer supporters offering assistance and support online too, monthly small face-to-face peer-led group sessions here in our building, or one-to-one peer buddy sessions out in the community. We’re now looking for people to volunteer as part of the network.

 “Part of the role of a volunteer includes providing a warm, friendly and welcoming community, supporting members with engaging and interacting with the Peer Support Network, in whichever way they feel comfortable, buddying up with new joiners, and responding to member’s individual needs.”

Options Wellbeing Trust applied for funding with the support of tastelife UK, a charity which was founded in 2013 by two mums who both had daughters struggling with Bulimia Nervosa. They created the tastelife course for those suffering from eating disorders, and those supporting them, such as family and friends.

 Di Archer, tastelife UK CEO, says: “Southampton was the birthplace of what is now the national charity, tastelife UK. We are thrilled that our partnership with Options Wellbeing Trust has led to a funding boost and that those with eating issues in the area will now receive even more support. We look forward to delivering the ‘Peer Support Network’ in the Southampton area together with Options Wellbeing Trust.”

 Both charities are hoping people will volunteer as part of the network.

 Wendy continues: “No qualifications are needed to volunteer, we just ask that applicants can demonstrate warmth and approachability, be effective communicators and listeners, be patient, empathetic and understanding, provide comfort and reassurance, and be non-judgemental. Volunteers should have lived experience of eating difficulties, whether they have suffered themselves or have been a carer or supporter of someone with an eating difficulty.

 “We also ask that volunteers maintain confidentiality. Volunteers will require references and an enhanced DBS check, which we will undertake. Everyone who is successful will receive mandatory training before engaging in the project.”

It is estimated that one in ten people nationally has an eating disorder, with long waiting lists to see NHS Eating Disorder Teams.

 Wendy adds: “We understand that the local Eating Disorders Service has seen a 48% increase in referrals on pre-covid times. We’re hoping to reach people who may be waiting for the NHS Eating Disorder Team to get in touch or haven’t yet asked for help.”

 Options Wellbeing Trust says the eating issues people are struggling with may or may not be diagnosed, but they are significantly impacting on their lives.

 Di adds: “We think that what we do through our tastelife course perfectly complements the Peer Support Network and offers people not only ongoing support after the eight-week course has finished but also a more informal place for them to start their journey of recovery.”

Peer supporters will receive awareness-raising training on mental health and mindfulness topics with both Options Wellbeing Trust and tastelife UK.

 Options Wellbeing Trust offers a range of counselling and wellbeing services including a number of life issues such as anxiety, stress, bereavement, trauma, depression, relationships and addictions. It is part of SCiA in Southampton, which is a not-for-profit group of charitable social enterprises working together to improve health and wellbeing in communities across southern England. SCiA’s Action Fund helps those that need financial assistance at a grassroots level through grants given to partner organisations such as Options Wellbeing Trust for its Peer Support Network.

  • If you would like to find out more about becoming a Volunteer Peer Supporter, visit https://bit.ly/3NS2KLX.  For further information about tastelife UK, please visit tastelifeuk.org.


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