A CHARITY struggling to cope with an increase in demand for counselling has been aided by a £5,000 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

The funding was a slice of almost £96,000 given to groups across Swindon and Wiltshire from the community foundation’s twice yearly foundation grants.

Olive Branch Counselling, in Flowers Yard, Chippenham, provides low cost counselling for people suffering mental health issues but its 14 counsellors, who all give their time for free, have 20 clients stuck on a waiting list of up to four months.

Chairman of trustees Adrian Foster said the grant will help towards the charity’s costs and pay for training of more counsellors. It is very helpful, and we are really grateful to the foundation for its help,” he said.

“There are many in the community we are serving who are suffering mental health or relationship problems who cannot access the NHS or are unable to afford private counselling and we have noticed a steady rise in demand over the past three or four years”

The charity recently moved to its new base and is gradually renovating it. Already there is a suite of counselling rooms that Mr Foster hopes to hire out to private counsellors to help bring in revenue.

“We could offer a discounted rate if they could give us one or two hours of counselling in return,” he said. “That would help us reduce our waiting list.”

The Wiltshire Community Foundation funds hundreds of groups across Wiltshire. Last year more than £150,000 was awarded to charities in north Wiltshire alone.

Another group to benefit from this year’s first round of foundation grants is Care Home Volunteers, which was awarded £10,000 over two years for its new network of visitors in Chippenham, as well as existing operations in Swindon and Salisbury. The group’s volunteers spend time with people living in six care homes in the town, many of whom will have lost a partner and will have had to move away from their friends.

Chairman of trustees Norman Edwards said many people in care homes just don’t want to be there and as a consequence they isolate themselves.

“They shut themselves away and they don’t see anyone apart from the staff, who are kind and compassionate but just don’t have the time to sit with people. Then there are those who are blind or have sensory loss or can’t communicate.

“We believe there is value in their lives and our volunteers embed themselves in a home and get to know people so they can make a difference. One in ten people in care homes never get a visitor so our volunteers are important.”

Home-Start Kennet was given a £10,000 grant to help run its network of volunteers tackling isolation and loneliness among young mums.

The group provides one-to-one support for families who are very often struggling to care for children without support or who are dealing with mental health issues.

Scheme manager Tania Rackham said it is seeing its caseload steadily increasing. The grant will enable it to take on more volunteers who will be trained to befriend and support mums.

Volunteers are matched with families and visit them in their own homes every week. They offer advice and guidance as well as practical help, which could just be help tidying up or tips on cooking, finance or where to take their children. Many of the mums don’t have family nearby and, because many are also new to the area, don’t have friends.

“All of our volunteers are parents too and they know the area so they are there to listen to them and to give emotional support and help them,” said Mrs Rackham. “The families know that there is someone who will be there every week they can trust and that’s a great ongoing benefit.”

Community First was awarded £7,000 to help provide youth activities across Swindon and Wiltshire in the wake of council cuts. Through Youth Action Wilshire, it will support 65 existing clubs by providing training and guidance and assistance with fundraising.

Jamie’s Farm in Box was awarded £5,000 to help with its running costs. Founded by Jamie Feildon and his mum Tish in 2010, the farm charity takes teenagers from urban environments in Wiltshire and all around the south of the country and gives them a week working and playing on a working farm surrounded by stunning scenery, eating nourishing food and sampling a way of life far removed from their own.

Wiltshire Community Foundation chief executive Rosemary Macdonald said: “I am delighted that this money will support such a wide range of groups who provide vital services for their communities, addressing major issues such as homelessness, loneliness, youth aspiration and mental health.

“This is what we do best, identify where the need is and then provide the funding to help tackle it.”