BIG-HEARTED people who give up their free time to volunteer and support their local community can now gain a special qualification.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s four work zones are offering an award in volunteering as recognition of their efforts.

This free qualification is for anyone over 19 who is claiming an out of work benefit and is considering or currently engaged in a volunteering role.

Volunteer Jim Struthers, from Kelsall, one of hundreds who give up their time to support council services, said: “I think volunteering is infectious because there is a real feel good factor. People appreciate what you do and you want to keep on doing it. You will choose other jobs and will also do some other volunteering roles.

“I volunteer because I know that I am doing something that is worthwhile. Most people are appreciative, they know you have helped them and you are doing it of your own free will and in your own time.

“Apparently there is some sort of medical evidence that because volunteers have a feel good factor they actually live longer. Volunteering is good for people and maybe they live longer because they have got a good outlook on life.”

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “Without volunteers, many vital support services would cease to function. Volunteers help the borough achieve its aims of creating a thriving place with thriving people

“This qualification provides formal recognition of volunteering activity. Through participation in volunteering activities, candidates will develop a range of skills and personal development experiences which will help to prepare them for responsibility, further education and employment.”

For more information call the Northwich Work Zone on 01606 288540 or the Winsford Work Zone on 01606 288901.