Letter: Samaritans seek diversity at the end of the line

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The Independent Online
WHAT should have been an important piece about the Samaritans ('Many are called, few are chosen', 4 April) failed by relying on the views of a handful of disaffected informants.

Surely it must be clear that the people we seek to help are emotionally fragile. The selection criteria we apply in recruiting volunteers, therefore, have to be stringent. We cannot afford to make mistakes with people's lives.

The Samaritans has been seen as a middle-aged, middle-class organisaton. This is simply not the case. Samaritans are all ages, from all cultures, and with all accents. I would be the first to accept, however, that there is no room for complacency. We must strive harder to ensure we encompass the broadest cross-section of the community in reaching out to those who may need our help and that we represent that same breadth among our volunteers.

Tempting as it may be for the occasional volunteer to draw on his or her own experience in offering support to a caller, or give advice, we know that this is not what someone in deep distress needs. They need their own feelings heard and they need time, space and the simple but powerful emotional support that Samaritans provide.

We are aware of the need to provide a consistently high quality of care. Without this and the continuing dedication of volunteers, the Samaritans would not now be entering its 40th year, still supporting over a million people every year who are in crisis.

Simon Armson

Chief Executive

The Samaritans

Slough, Bucks