Coronavirus fund grant helps Swindon counselling charity

By Barrie Hudson - 25 August 2020


A counselling charity has been helped to keep operating with a coronavirus fund grant.

  • Willows will use the foundation's response fund grant to create a hardship fund for students

    Willows will use the foundation's response fund grant to create a hardship fund for students

Willows Counselling Service, which treats people suffering from trauma, anxiety and depression, has been training counsellors for 30 years.

The Swindon organisation has been awarded £10,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund. 

The fund has now raised £1.1m and distributed more than £750,000 to 190 groups.

Willows, headquartered in Prospect Place, relies on current and former students to donate their services so it can offer low-cost therapy to hundreds of people in Swindon every year who cannot afford private treatment.

However, training manager Denise Brent said the service was under threat if students who studied its two-year courses were unable to find the money to train because of the pandemic. 

She added: “The counselling part of our agency would cease to exist without the training. 

"We know that many students are from families that have had redundancies or hours cut and some had been planning to do some part-time work alongside their training, but that’s more difficult to find now.

“Often our students enter counselling training because of difficulties in their own lives often meaning they struggle to work or have significant caring responsibilities.”

The grant will be used to create a hardship fund for students. 

Mrs Brent said: “The grant is a massive help because it means if money is going to be tight our students can apply for some of that money, and that will allow them to keep studying.

“In order to have the capacity to take the increasing number of referrals we get and not put people on a waiting list, we need to have enough counsellors working with us, therefore we need to have enough students. 

"More counsellors are always needed because mental health is so massively underfunded, particularly with trauma and abuse, which we work with a lot. 

"There’s funding in the NHS for short-term counselling but it is never going to be the right thing for people who have suffered trauma.”

More than 80 per cent of students who train with Willows remain as volunteer counsellors for up to five years.

The two-year part-time level 4 Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body course would cost £5,000 at a college, not including books and the cost of 20 hours of personal therapy. 

The charity runs the same course but subsidises it by 25 per cent so students pay £3,600. Because it is a small centre it gets no Government funding and has to raise funds to pay for the subsidy.

Mrs Brent said 200 clients a year suffering  anxiety, depression, grief and loss, work related issues, trauma and abuse paid what they could afford for their treatment. Private counselling costs up to £50 a session.

“We can work with people for a couple of years, think of the financial cost to someone if they were treated privately,” she said.

The group has seen a steady increase in cases during the lockdown and expects it to rise further as more people lose their jobs and others struggle with the pressure of returning to work after months shut away.

Mrs Brent said: “We will have new people coming to us because there have been so many people forced into a reality that isn’t their norm. 

"They have been coping but then they have been through these extraordinary times and it is too much. All of us only have so many resources.”

The organisation's website is

Wiltshire Community Foundation interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are so pleased to fund this vital work. 

"We know from the many applications that we receive that groups will be in demand because of the pandemic for some time to come, which is why our fund is so badly needed.”

Details of how to donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or apply for a grant can be found at

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