Volunteers who contribute their time to support unpaid carers were thanked at an award ceremony held in Devizes on Thursday 4 August. Carer Support Wiltshire (who are the umbrella organisation for Carer Support Dorset) held the annual event especially for its volunteers, and attendees all enjoyed afternoon tea before finding out the names of the six people chosen to receive an award.

There are 105 volunteers currently working for the charity who ensure that a range of services can be offered to people who are caring for someone and need support. Volunteers run and support carer cafes, groups and other carer events, they offer regular phone calls to people through a befriending service called Here to Talk and they are involved in carers voice events.

Marco van-Tintelen, Carer Support Dorset’s Head of Operations says: “Our volunteers are all absolute superstars and we welcome the opportunity to do something for them once a year with our volunteer awards.

“Although we highlight the achievements of a few, we’re really celebrating all of our volunteers, who give freely of their time, experience and expertise to support us and their communities. Without them we simply wouldn’t be able to support as many carers as we do.

“Carers need support from us now more than ever. Many have given up work or reduced their working hours to allow them to care for a friend or family member who has fallen ill, is elderly or has a disability and this adds a financial pressure to an already, often challenging, situation. There are also a lot of carers who are still feeling the effects of the lockdowns, which left them completely stressed and burnt out from caring 24/7 at home with no extra help or respite.”

The award categories included Outstanding Contribution, the Volunteer Manager award and Volunteer of the Year. There was also a Corporate Award, handed to Zurich Community Trust whose employees have given hundreds of hours of their time to support carers, including contacting 660 carers for a wellbeing check during the first lockdown and running a weekly online carer café.

Howard from Broadstone, Dorset, won the Outstanding Contribution award on the day and says: “I was the first volunteer to be involved with the Here to Talk project at Carer Support Dorset. I have found it beneficial not only personally but from the feedback I have had from the carers I have supported.

“My wife, Val, died two years ago from a rare form of dementia, and I wanted to give something back to those who are going through the difficult journey I went through. Carers often feel alone and it is quite clear that calling a carer once or twice a week is invaluable to them.

“The Here to Talk service is a vital service which I encourage others to get involved with.”

Carer Support Dorset would always like to hear from people who are interested in volunteering. Current opportunities include as a Here to Talk befriending volunteer, and the charity is also looking for a Treasurer to join its board of trustees. If you would like to find out more about volunteering, or are caring for someone and would like to find what support is available to you, call 0800 368 8349 during normal office hours.