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MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN 2017 CAMPAIGN: Vital Arthritis Care volunteers providing emotional and practical support across Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:40 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:40 16 May 2017

Chris Preston, Project Co-ordinator for Arthritis Care

Chris Preston, Project Co-ordinator for Arthritis Care

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

As part of our support of the Voluntary Norfolk Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, the EDP is shining a light on voluntary groups. Reporter SOPHIE WYLLIE found out about the vital role volunteers play in supporting people across Norfolk living with arthritis.

Linda Hogben of Bradwell, who is a volunteer one-to-one support worker for Arthritis Care, and has rheumatoid arthritis herself. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLinda Hogben of Bradwell, who is a volunteer one-to-one support worker for Arthritis Care, and has rheumatoid arthritis herself. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Pain, tiredness and sleep problems - these are three major impacts of arthritis which affects 10 million people across the UK each year.

But a group of dedicated volunteers across Norfolk are working hard to offer practical and emotional advice to people with the sometimes debilitating condition, which causes inflammation of the joints, through the national charity Arthritis Care.

Set up in 1947, the charity is solely run by volunteers - many of whom have arthritis.

Its previous role was running self-management sessions for people with the condition.

Since August 2015, Arthritis Care has promoted community-based peer support across the county via drop-in sessions and support groups through the Living Well With Arthritis campaign.

Chris Preston, Arthritis Care project co-ordinator for Norfolk, said: “The volunteers we have are vital. Without them, we would not be able to run the Living Well With Arthritis project.

“The more volunteers we have got for Arthritis Care, the more drop-in sessions we can do. It also means we can get out to different parts of the county.”

Drop-in sessions are led by volunteers who offer advice on pain management, through diet or exercise; access to Arthritis Care support groups or one-to-one support; and where to go for medical support and benefits advice.

These are held at the James Paget University Hospital, Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Sheringham libraries and First Focus Information and Advice Centre in Fakenham.

The charity also works with other organisations including Age UK and has information for arthritis patients available at the James Paget University Hospital and the Forum in Norwich.

Part of the Living Well With Arthritis campaign is to boost the number of hospitals and health care centres featuring so-called information hubs which include leaflets full of advice and contacts, topped up by volunteers.

There are 10 volunteers involved with the living well project and they help about 1,000 people across Norfolk each year.

Mr Preston added: “Most of our volunteers do have arthritis. They can provide empathy because they know what people are going through.”

He said the aim of the charity and its Living Well With Arthritis campaign was to get more information about the condition and how to manage it, across different communities.

“If people have better knowledge of their own condition they can have a better relationship with health care professionals. It is important to learn how to self-manage arthritis.

“One in seven people in Britain has some form of arthritis and many people use their GP service because of it,” Mr Preston said.

One of the charity’s volunteers is Linda Hogben, 53, from Bradwell near Great Yarmouth, who runs monthly drop-in sessions at the James Paget University Hospital.

The former civil servant, who was made redundant in 2015, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 34 years ago.

She started volunteering for Arthritis Care at the end of 2015 after job hunting on the computer at Gorleston Library.

The charity was hosting a drop-in event at the same time.

Miss Hogben, who cannot walk far because of her condition, said: “I got chatting to Mr Preston and he said the charity was looking for volunteers. Being unemployed, I thought it was a good idea to do some voluntary work.”

Since June 2016 she has been doing one-to-one support sessions alongside her drop-in work.

She added: “I get a satisfaction from volunteering knowing I have helped someone. I have always loved meeting people.

“What we do as volunteers for Arthritis Care is important.”

Miss Hogben, who used to work for HM Revenue and Customs as an admin assistant, is still job hunting and added volunteering boosted her CV.

“It shows I’m doing something and it is keeping my mind active,” she said.

As well as the Living Well With Arthritis scheme, Arthritis Care runs volunteer-led support groups and branch meetings in Norwich, North Walsham, Thetford, Cromer, Downham Market and Gaywood in King’s Lynn.

For more information about volunteering in Norfolk call Mr Preston on 07834 418472 or email ChrisP@arthritiscare.org.uk.

Visit www.arthritiscare.org.uk for details about the charity.

Are you a group which relies on volunteers? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

Arthritis factfile

Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children.

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting around eight million people. It often develops in adults who are in their late 40s or older.

The condition can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

It affects the hands, spine, knees and hips.

In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people. It often starts when a person is between 40 and 50-years-old. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can develop problems with other tissues and organs.

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