A SEARCH has been launched to find volunteers to help change the lives of individuals and families through befriending.

Inverclyde Carers' Centre received almost £150,000 through the National Lottery Communities Fund last year to help reduce social isolation among people who look after loved ones.

The team at the centre in Cathcart Street has used the money to establish a befriending service for carers and introduce a programme of day trips.

Community development practitioner Donna Martin said: "Carers can feel socially isolated as they can't get out much and they lose touch with their friends.

"Our befriending service runs in consultation with the carers themselves.

"We're led by where our carers want to go and we work with them to accommodate their needs.

"All volunteers are trained and aware of the complexities of caring for someone.

"Befriending can open up a whole new circle of friends for carers."

Greenock couple Graham Shaw and Laura Fitzsimmons, both 38, were able to take their children Marc, seven, and Lucy, five, on two days out with the centre - one to Heads of Ayr Farm Park and another to Glasgow Science Centre.

Marc has ADHD and autism and Graham admits that it can be difficult for the family to get some quality time together.

Graham said: "It can be difficult for us in social situations and it's not always easy for us to get days out and family time.

"It's been great to go on the days out and to spend time together.

"You get to meet folk in the same situation and there's no stress as everything is organised for you."

Another person who has benefited from the befriending service is Greenock man Jim Banner-Rall, 63.

He has been a carer for his husband Robert, who uses a wheelchair, for the last five years.

Robert suffers from a reactive form of epilepsy when he gets anxious, so Jim doesn't like leaving him for too long.

Volunteer befriender Robert Pearson is now working with Jim to help ease his role as a carer.

Robert said: "It makes a big difference.

"Jim and I get on really well.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying it and get a lot out of it - you get the chance to meet people that you wouldn't normally meet.

"You don't realise what other people are going through.

"There's something for everyone here and it really is a lifeline for a lot of people."

Through the befriending service, carers can receive a one hour telephone call, meet up with a volunteer, or receive a weekly home visit.

Activities at the centre include quiz nights, bingo sessions, a book club, and a 'bun and blether' drop in.

Young carers also meet in the centre every week.

Volunteers do not need to be care experienced to take on a befriending role as full training and support is provided.

If you would like to volunteer to be a befriender, or to volunteer to help at the days out, contact Donna Martin at the centre on 735180.