Genesis, Peabody and Viridian awarded £100k Nesta funding for befriending project

Three leading London housing associations are joining forces to support older residents with mental health needs after securing a £100,000 grant to roll out an intensive volunteering programme. 

Genesis, Peabody and Viridian submitted a successful bid to the Give More Get More fund run by innovation foundation Nesta and the Office for Civil Society. The grant will support the associations’ delivery of an innovative new project, V50, which will train up over 100 residents aged 50 and over to act as volunteer wellbeing mentors offering dedicated one to one support to unemployed peers with moderate to medium mental health needs.


The mentors will receive training via Genesis’ befriending service and Mental Health Ambassador training delivered by Mind. 


The wellbeing mentors will volunteer for two to three days a week over a four month period at selected housing schemes across the associations’ London footprint.  Genesis will be supporting 60 volunteers and the remaining 40 will be split equally between Peabody and Viridian.


The Give More Get More fund will help to build understanding of what works best when developing intensive impact volunteering services - such as gap years - for volunteers who are aged 50 and over.  Organisations involved will test and develop new services and models that have greater impact and encourage increased participation among this age group.


Richard Bellis, Head of Genesis Connect at Genesis Housing Association, said: “We’re thrilled to have been awarded this funding and look forward to working in close partnership with Peabody, Viridian and Mind to get the project up and running. Befriending has been shown to work wonders in the way that it can build positive relationships, improve well-being and reduce social isolation.  Volunteers will also benefit from expert training, increased mental health awareness and that good feeling that comes from supporting others and giving something back to your community.”


Mary Whitfield, Head of Social Impact at Viridian, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to work in partnership with Genesis, Peabody and Mind to increase our support to our older residents.


“Something as simple as personal contact can make a real positive impact in the lives of those who feel isolated and lonely.


“At Viridian we have already seen this work through two incredibly successful services for our older residents.


“This new project will now enable us to expand our offer further, helping to support more customers, who are most in need, to live independently.”


Veronica Kirwan, Peabody’s Director Community Programmes, said: “More than 700 Peabody residents have felt less isolated as a result of our befriending scheme. This funding will enable us to offer more practical support to older residents with mental health needs. The new volunteer befrienders will help to enhance our residents’ quality of life and create strong communities. We welcome this opportunity to work with Genesis, Viridian and Mind on this exciting project.” 


Nada Calovska, Services Manager at Mind said: “Wandsworth & Westminster Mind are looking forward to working with three leading housing associations on this project.  We will be facilitating training sessions for befrienders focusing on support for people with mental health needs.”


Deb Fox, Programme Manager at Nesta, said: "The volunteer organisations we work with have long told us they want to try something new, that enables volunteers to become more involved in the causes they care about but still fits around their increasingly busy lives. The five supported through the Give More Get More fund will test and develop new opportunities that enable people aged fifty and above to give their time more intensively and help make a difference to the people and services in their community. Together we will identify new models of intensive volunteering and share the insights with the wider sector."


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