A remarkable grandmother from Falmouth who helped people across Cornwall recover following domestic abuse has been named national volunteer of the year by Barnardo’s.

Jean Yeomans, 77, was invited to London to receive the prestigious Marsh Trust Excellence Award for her work with the SUsie Programme which has seen her support many people through their recovery from domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The SUsie Programme is run as part of Cornwall Safer Futures Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Services (DASV), a partnership between Barnardo’s and Firstlight.

Jean, a survivor of domestic abuse herself, has been volunteering with the recovery programme since 2014.

Her warmth and empathy have been welcomed by everyone she works with, especially those who find it daunting taking their first steps towards getting support.

Since the pandemic she has also volunteered as a co-facilitator delivering online support and recovery groups, something many people prefer as they don’t need to travel from their own homes or walk into an unknown venue.

She was nominated by Barnardo’s volunteer manager Lisa Sandercock who said: “Jean is very compassionate and makes our clients feel heard, validated and supported.

"She is also very professional in all she does and is a great ambassador for us in the community. Her dedication, reliability and her impact are second to none.”

Jean, who has two children and three grandchildren and is now happily settled with a loving partner, recently began supporting a new online support group for mature women.

She is finding it particularly rewarding. She said: “It has been very successful as the women have things in common with each other and many friendships are formed which continue beyond the support and recovery programme. They know they will always have someone to phone if they have a problem.

“When they join the group there is no pressure on them, they can just sit and listen to other group members sharing their experiences if they wish. I remember when I joined, and I realised how many women had been through the same as me.

“It is wonderful to see them grow in confidence over time. We had one lady who always dressed in black, she said it reflected how she felt. But by the end of the recovery course her self-esteem was so much higher, she had her hair and nails done and was dressing completely differently.”

Jean has no plans to slow down and is hoping to continue to volunteer with the ever-diversifying SUsie Programme.

It now provides support and recovery for male-only and open and inclusive groups, alongside the women-only work which is offered both online and face to face in various locations across Cornwall.

Latest figures from Safer Cornwall reveal that an estimated 21,500 people experienced domestic abuse in the county in a year, 14,740 women and 6,760 men.

An estimated 56,900 people in Cornwall will have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16.* To find out more about the support available from Barnardo’s Safer Futures domestic abuse and sexual violence services in Cornwall please visit https://saferfutures.org.uk/