VOLUNTEERING should be open to anyone who wants to do it, and that is what we strive for at Craven Volunteer Centre.

About half of the people who come to the centre need some support to take advantage of the opportunities available. This might be because of a physical disability or learning difficulties, or they might have been unemployed for a long time. In these situations, low confidence is usually a factor.

We want to do more to help, and thanks to funding from North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities programme we have been able to recruit a project worker, Nichola Holmes, to work eight hours a week for the next two years.

Nichola, who has been with us for about six months, has experience of supporting people with disabilities at Craven College, which she still does. She brings the number of staff at the volunteer centre in Otley Street, Skipton, to three, alongside me and administrative assistant Val Ward. We also have a board of trustees and volunteers who help with office administration.

Nichola supports people who come to the centre through various routes. Some are referred by other agencies. For example, mental health services, the jobcentre or the drugs and alcohol service, if they feel someone could benefit from volunteering. Some come of their own accord. People who need support don’t want to be always on the receiving end of services, they often want to be able to contribute. We are also seeing people who have had their support reduced, so have extra time and are looking at volunteering as a way of filling that time usefully.

The type of help we offer depends on the individual. It could be identifying where they could make the most difference. It could be making telephone calls on their behalf, helping to fill in application forms or taking them to organisations so they can make an informed choice. It may be going with them for the first few times if they lack the confidence to go alone.

The other side of Nichola’s role is visiting organisations to become more familiar with their work and spend time developing new volunteering opportunities with them, perhaps by splitting roles so that people who might be less able can do part of the role, helping the organisation to be more inclusive.

Having Nichola here has made a big difference. Before she joined us, we gave people information, but they didn’t necessarily have the confidence to follow it through and we didn’t have enough time to support them as much as we would have liked. Now, we know people are finding the right opportunities and have somebody supporting them. They are going ahead with the opportunity and are staying with it, whereas before it could be difficult to engage them.

Nichola’s projects include working with Brooklands Community Special School in Skipton. After a visit from Nichola, pupils wanted to be involved in a volunteering project, so she is working with them to build hedgehog houses, which will be donated to organisations for their gardens.

Anyone who wants to learn about volunteering opportunities in Craven, whether or not they need additional support, can visit our offices in Otley Street, Skipton. They can also visit our website which gives access to volunteering places available through the volunteer connect portal, where both volunteers and organisations can register their interests and requirements.

The county council’s stronger communities programme has also helped the volunteer centre by providing information about other sources of funding, appraising draft applications and being a referee for applications.

Here are a few examples of people who have come to us:

Ian Pearce has been working in accountancy and book keeping, running his own business until he had a stroke in 2012. He has been unable to work since, but has put a lot of effort into his recovery, attending speech classes and physical training. He decided to volunteer to build up his confidence and improve his writing and computer skills. Working with Nichola, he found a role with the Skipton based Principle Trust Children’s Charity, which provides holidays for disadvantaged children and their families. This position uses his skills and enables him to learn something new. He is enjoying his role and works three hours twice a week. His current role is helping with all the charity’s forthcoming events.

One young man who approached the centre experiences social anxiety and associated issues. He has completed a course on health promotion and activity training at college and would like to find work in this area. The centre was able to support him in contacting Champions Show the Way, which provides interesting and sociable activities. He attended their walk leader course and has been invited back for more training. He will become a volunteer community champion. The centre is working on his CV and keeping him updated on other suitable volunteering roles to expand his knowledge and build his confidence.

To find out more about North Yorkshire's stronger communities programme go to the website northyorks.gov.uk/strongercommunities. To find out more about

Craven Volunteer centre go to cravenvb.org.uk