Deane, Frank P. and Andresen, Retta, 2006, Evolution and Sustainability of the Helping Hands Volunteer Program: Consumer Recovery and Mental Health Comparisons Six Years On, The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 12(2), 88-103.
The Helping Hands program commenced in 1999 and partners volunteers with mental health consumers for support and to increase social contact, recreational and friendship opportunities. The aim of the present study is to describe the evolution and sustainability of the program over the first 6 years. A description of consumers accessing the program using recovery-oriented measures and traditional measures of behavioural functioning is also provided. Service data was collected on the development of the program, service utilisation, volunteer participation and funding patterns. Cross-sectional measures of recovery and baseline and follow-up Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS) were collected on 27 participants. Results showed that the Helping Hands program has evolved significantly since start-up with the development of numerous recreational, health and support groups and 48 active volunteers and 62 active clients. Consumer feedback indicates that the service increases the quality of life of participants considerably. Current clients showed less severe disability at referral than did the original group. There were improvements in the area of relationships on the HoNOS for those who had baseline and follow-up measures. The high volunteer participation rates and positive consumer outcomes represent significant value in return for the modest level of funding.