Self help groups are informal groups which don't all operate in the same way. Some, for example, may have been set up to support people in a particular geographical area, people of a certain age, or people in a particular cultural community. Groups will have different aims and objectives. There is no national body responsible for registering and accrediting self help groups and this allows many different groups to form. It is therefore worth your while to ask questions of a group you are thinking of joining and to ask yourself what you want from a self help group.
Questions you may want to ask:
- What are the aims of the group? Many groups produce a short statement summarising their aims and how they hope to achieve these.
- Is it linked to another umbrella organisation? If so, find out about this group.
- How is the group run? Is there a committee, and if so who are the members and how are they chosen? If there is no committee, is the group run by one individual, and what is their background and experience of the issues?
- Does the group offer confidentiality to its members?
- Does the group offer telephone or other support between meetings?
- Does the group meet in a place that is easily accessible to all sections of the community?
- Does the group charge a membership fee? If so, how much?
- If you attend group meetings, are you made welcome and are your views and experiences listened to with attention and respect?
- Is the group involved in campaigning for better services?
- Does the group offer information and advice and how is this information compiled? Is it based on individual experience or does it reflect recent research findings or developments?
There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers to these questions, nor is this a comprehensive list - they are simply a guide to the sort of things you might think about when you are deciding if a group will meet your individual requirements.