Norwich Samaritans offered a listening ear to those in need 37,000 times in a year

Norwich Samaritans offered support to those in need more than 37,000 times in just one year, it has been revealed.

The charity, based in St Stephen's Square, has 150 volunteers who offer a listening ear 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In 2011, the Norwich branch received 33,000 telephone calls, 1,300 emails, 3,200 texts and had 280 visits in person from people in need. The numbers reflect a rising trend over the past few years, and finances and benefits in particular have been prompting people to call over the past year.

Samaritans volunteer and branch chairman Elke said the emotional strain and fear created by a drop in income was prompting many people to seek support.

'Anecdotally, we are getting far more calls on finances and benefits, particularly with all these benefit changes.

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'I have been a Samaritan for a long time and we are speaking to more people with mental health problems than we used to. We are getting a lot more men talking to us now, as it used to be more women.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith joined volunteers at the charity's Aylsham Road shop on Saturday as part of the Charity Retail Association's Choose Charity Shops campaign. The campaign aims to encourage more people to give their unwanted items that are in good condition, rather than throw them away.

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Miss Smith said the Samaritans was a worthwhile charity which played a 'vital role in providing a listening ear to those in crisis'.

'Charity shops play an important role in the recycling of unwanted items as well as raising vital funds for countless good causes.'

Charity shop manager Paul Gardner said: 'We rely on the hard work of our volunteers and generous donations of unwanted items from members of the public, to keep our charity shop running.'

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