16 May 2012

Swindon-based mental health charity celebrates purchase of new mini-bus

The Swindon-based mental health charity SUNS is celebrating purchasing a new mini-bus that will enhance the benefits it can offer mental health service users in town.

SUNS - Service User Network Swindon - is run by service users for service users, providing them with opportunities to talk about their experiences and take part in fun activities.

The purchase of the nine-seater Mercedes bus - affectionately named 'Happy Days' by the charity's committee, made up entirely of mental health service users - has been made possible thanks to a £25,000 grant from the PCT.

This follows a successful funding bid that was supported by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) - a major mental health provider in the southwest.

"The new mini-bus is fantastic news for mental health service users in Swindon," says Ivor Bermingham of SUNS. "It means that we will be able to offer a wider variety of activities, like art, photography, walks and hikes, and trips to locations further afield, like visiting the canal locks in Devizes and going on barge rides in Bath. We will also be able to take service users to local community meetings and gatherings."

The mini-bus will be based at AWP's Sandalwood Court - an acute inpatient unit - and all bookings and administration will be managed through Sandalwood Court reception.

"The bus will also be available for use by other local mental health charities, carers groups or anybody with responsibility for supporting mental health service users," says Ivor. "SUNS will cover insurance and maintenance costs; groups will simply have to pay for the fuel they use."

Kieran Holland, Modern Matron at Sandalwood Court, says: "We had a mini-bus for years, but it just got too old and too uneconomical to run.

The new bus fits into the existing scheme but because it is new and more efficient to run, the range of activities and trips on offer will be better than before."

SUNS and AWP have worked in partnership for a number of years. AWP part-funds and supports SUNS' 'Swindon Listening Line' - an out-of-office-hours telephone service where service users and carers can talk about their worries and concerns, or simply off-load. It's open 365 days a year, from 6pm to midnight, for people living in Swindon.

"There is a real strength in partnership working, particularly in the current economic climate," adds Kieran. "It's about bringing people together and making things happen for the benefit of others."

To book the mini-bus, please contact Sandalwood Court reception: 01793 836800.

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