Action Together's Volunteering and Social Prescribing services work closely together, meaning we can support people to quickly find community groups and voluntary organisations that match their interests.
Ben was referred to our Social Prescribing service through his GP, which led to him embarking on a volunteer journey. This is Ben's story:
Ben is a young man with autism who had become very isolated. As this isolation was having a negative impact on his mental health, Ben and his mum had spoken to a nurse in the GP practice who had recommended Social Prescribing.
After Ben and his family moved to Tameside, the referral was sent to Action Together and Ben began working with Sue, one of our Social Prescribing Officers.
As Ben struggles to communicate with strangers, he had given permission for his mum, Karen, to speak on his behalf. Ben spent most of his time in the family home. He liked to go out walking alone but only when the weather was nice.
Karen identified that Ben would like:
- Primarily to build up his self-esteem and confidence
- To volunteer. He had volunteered in the past, but in roles that did not hold his interest
- Ben enjoys watching sport and would like to be involved in football of some kind
- Prior to the pandemic, Ben had attended the Gateway social club and would be interested in anything similar
Sue reflected on what Ben would like to achieve, so her aims were to give Ben some purposeful activity, some structure to his week, and to increase his social contacts, confidence levels and self-esteem.
Sue had to make sure that whatever she did was absolutely right for Ben from the start so that we did not risk further reducing his self confidence and thereby his willingness to engage with Social Prescribing. That meant doing research and liaising closely with mum Karen and any relevant organisations.
Sue went through a number of steps:
- A referral to Lisa, Action Together's Volunteering Support Officer for Tameside, who discussed options for volunteering opportunities that matched Ben’s interests. Lisa then contacted the organisations identified, to make the initial introductions and to arrange for Ben and his mum to visit
- Contacting all the local disability football teams to find out if they were operating after the covid restrictions and ascertain if they were suitable for Ben’s needs. We passed this information onto mum Karen
- Researching local disability social groups. After contacting Karen with the information, we identified a new group that Ben was interested in and contacted the organiser
Ben loved the opportunities presented to him and started to volunteer almost immediately. This success has helped build confidence not only for Ben, but also in the process, so that he is more likely to engage in further opportunities.
Our Volunteer Officer Lisa told us about Ben's journey with volunteering and Social Prescribing:
Ben was referred to me via Social Prescribing. I was told that he was a very capable young man that has Autism. He wanted to get involved in some volunteering so that he could build his confidence and to gain some independence. I worked with Social Prescriber Sue and Ben’s mum to think about volunteer opportunities that would suit Ben’s interests. We discussed his options so that we wouldn’t overwhelm him with choice. Ben struggles with fear of the unknown and would likely talk himself out of doing things. We decided on a variety of opportunities that would give Ben something to look forward to each week and would also get him outdoors, active, meeting people and building his confidence.
The first volunteer role was with Ashton United in the Community. Andy from AUITC contacted Ben’s mum the same day I referred him and he started volunteering the very next day. This was a great outcome! I checked in with Ben to see how his first day of volunteering went. He was supporting AUITC with grounds maintenance and gardening, and his first day ended up being a wet one. It rained heavily that day but that didn’t stop Ben. He came away soaked to the bone but very happy with what he had achieved. Moving forward Ben will be part of the Ashton United in the Community gardening club. He has also recently started volunteering at their community pantry, putting together food parcels.
The second charity Ben chose to volunteer with is The Bread and Butter Thing. This role involves working with a team of people to unload The Bread and Butter Thing Van. All of the food is sorted in to categories in a big room and then it is divided in to carrier bags for local people to come and collect. Ben has done really well in this role. He got stuck right in and has been a valuable member of the team at St Martin’s Church. I went along one week to see how he was getting involved. The beaming smile on his face told me everything I needed to know. He was loving it!
Ben's mum Karen shared this feedback:
Firstly Action Together are wonderful, it is such a good organisation. You have helped Ben enormously, as without this Ben would still be struggling. As you know we moved house and area recently and where we lived before did nothing for Ben. Since moving Ben has come on with his social skills and meeting new people, which he struggled with before. Sue you have been brilliant, without you and Lisa Ben would be doing nothing with his life. There are so many opportunities for him within Action Together. He really enjoys working at The Bread and Butter Thing and helping the people who use this service.
Thank you once again for everything you have done for Ben and myself.
Well done Ben and thank you for volunteering!
Action Together host Social Prescribing services in Oldham and Tameside. Visit these pages to find out more:
To find out more about volunteering in your area visit our Volunteering page.