Well – we’ve just finished clearing away tables and resetting the community centre for this afternoon’s French class after a successful morning of pulling in several voluntary organisations from Carlisle and district to network, share ideas and possibly make new connections. Many thanks to Mark Costello of Cumbria CVS who actually helped Paul Nedved, our noble person of the chair to line up all of the organisations.
The other more subtle aim of the session was to sell the community centre as a base for the activities of these organisations. Because in truth, we’ve got a great little function room for local families, organisations and businesses to gather and do their thing. I was chatting to Paul the Chair a few minutes ago and his impression of the morning was very positive. In the words of the man himself. “I was delighted to see so many voluntary groups coming together to see what we had to offer each other. The key for today was to build up the number of volunteers able to help run the SCA. With the little bit of publicity from today we hope to be able to sell ourselves to the wider community of Stanwix with what we have to offer. We’ve managed to build up strong links with CVS and the church”.
The Volunteer Groups of Carlisle
The several groups who came and networked were diverse, and it surprised me how many I hadn’t actually heard of! So who were they?
Representing Cumbria CVS this morning were Mark Costello and a colleague who I miserably failed to catch up with and identify! He explained that the role of Cumbria CVS was almost that of a volunteer broker: in a nutshell, matching the willing with the wanting! They tend to work with existing organisations such as MIND and MENCAP, for instance and take note of their volunteering opportunities in Cumbria. Then they try to find the smaller organisations and volunteers who can fulfill the larger organisations goals at the local level. As well as matching the willing with the wanting they also take on the task of providing training for both the organisations and the individual volunteers. This is seen as an essential n ensuring that the experience for volunteers, the organisations and service recipients is as high quality as possible.
Currently there are 5 offices around the county, with a couple of staff attached to each to manage the workload. A current major focus is adult social care delivered through the Neighbourhood Care Independence Scheme which is providing opportunities for the over 65s to remain independent with the help of community based volunteers.
This is a group that I hadn’t heard about previously. Paul Caine the project’s coordinator filled me in on a few details. They’ve only been going since April and are still bringing their first group of volunteers through the safeguarding proces and training them. The group should be ready to hit the ground to help over 65s with anything from this list of activities
- Accompanied walks
- Help with correspondence
- Dog walking
- Shopping and general errands
- Supported access to leisure and social activities
You can find out more about Community Neighbours here.
Download the flyer here!
On Yer Bike
This one appealed to me with its nicely yobby title and the fact that it’s got bikes! Damien Morris is the Residential Involvement Officer at Impact, based in centre 47 at Denton Holme in the city. He told me that On Yer Bike started as an idea shared between a group of about 3 Impact workers who were looking for something novel to get some of their tenants motivated to involve themselves in the running of the Impact organisation. They came to describe themselves as a Social Well Being and Inclusion Project. The idea quickly took hold and was rolled out to include people receiving help in the projects for homeless, domestic violence and drug and alcohol misuse.
Starting off in 2008 with 30 bikes kindly donated by Center Parcs Whinfell resort, the group gathered in unwanted bikes and bits and gradually put all 30 back out for use. Since their early days they have run events that have put nearly 5000 people on a bike seat. This year alone the 3 volunteers with their recycled van have had over 450 individuals riding at events ranging from big occasions at community centres in Carlisle to smaller day gigs at villages like Parton in West Cumbria.
Like many of these organisationds they rely on very volatile funding. Some comes from Impact itself, more comes from the Cumbria CVS pot and other little contributions come in from some of the neighbourhood forums that they are involved with. To put themselves on a slightly more secure footing Damien’s group are applying for a small lottery grant to try and renew the stock of bikes which are now 5 years past their sell by date. A small boost of £10000 pound is sought, so I am sure any help or testimonials from satisfied participants would be appreciated. We wish them well.
Friends of Rickerby Park
David Wiliams and Nils Minor were flying the flag today for the Friends. This is our most homegrown volunteer group. The Friends of Rickerby Park came into being after a petition lobbied the City Council about the run down state of Rickerby Park – that brilliant slice of countryside that injects fresh air into the city. With just over a hundred people on the mailing list, it’s the biggest group here today – on paper at least. David was saying that they’d had a dozen people at last night’s meeting, which was a good turn out and typically on their MAD days (Make A Difference) they can often see about 20 people turning out to get their hands dirty and keep the park under good stewardship.
In their 3 years they’ve certainly prodded the council into taking some very positive steps to improve the quality of Rickerby Park. In fact the park has just received its second consecutive Green Flag award. Under their care, the park has now come under the Higher Level StewardshipScheme. This is a pretty stringent management protocol that should see the park well maintained into the future.
Health Watch Cumbria
This is another very new group that has only been in existence since April. Janet Thompson, the Senior Engagement Officer explained that unlike the others present at the open event, her organisation is a statutory body which has a watchdog role on health and social care with a mission to improve the patient experience in all areas. she was at pains to point out that although they focus on patient experience, they are just as keen to pick up on the good practise and celebrate that as they are to take the more familiar complaints to task.
As our local hospitals prepare to come under the wing of Northumbria Hospitals Trust, it is probably a perfect moment to promote the new culture of transparency that will become essential to good practise in our health care systems. To that end Health Watch Cumbria are actively seeking out the views and comments of patients to identify the frequently good and the occasionally unsatisfactory occurrences in our over worked hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and community health system. Where unsatisfactory practises or incidents surface, the group have statutory powers to promote improvement.
The Service also has a preventative and guidance element as well, providing services to help patients find the best care for their personal circumstances. That could be where a patient’s priority is to be near their family or indeed to find the most successful surgeon for a particular procedure. In addition they also provide a connection for people to find services and activities that will contribute to preventative care! Finally, where a patient identifies an issue, HWC can provide a connection to the advocacy for complaints service that People First IAS, the NHS Complaints service manage. HWC are closely linked to People First but don’t run that service. However they will facilitate that person in taking their complaint forward as calmly or strongly as the patient requires with People First. I suspect that Janet is going to have a busy time of it as the changes roll through with a lot of positive things to look forward to.
Mindfulness in Action Project
Helen Davison had the lowdown on MAP. The aim of MAP is to provide affordable activities within the community to help people manage their stress burdens! Hands up anyone who doesn’t need some of this! Many people struggle financially or because of the stress or mental health issues they are contending with. These problems frequently do obstruct the individuals from accessing the activities, classes or groups that can help them deal with and rise above their current difficulties. Helen and her team are currently active at Morton, Belah and Brampton community centres a swell as various other locations in Carlisle. Activities on offer currently include Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation and an Anxiety Management class.
Where anxieties are strong one of the MAP volunteers will also accompany you to the initial class to help you find your feet.
Where finances are a problem MAP will provide a reduced rate for classes, which fits your budget as they do not want the cost to stop anyone from being able to attend activities which will benefit them.
Walking For Health
Our final group of the morning – last but not least was here in the person of Fiona Jackson. An organisation with a very simple aim… to promote access to healthy sociable exercise in the form of organised walks without the need for commitment or a “march or die” mentality! This movement has been in place for years in the country and has now become part of the Carlisle Healthy city programme. Walking for Health is literally as simple as turn up when you fancy, unannounced and the only hurdle is a very simple health questionnaire. Fiona says that take up has been so good that there are now two sessions each event to cope with the demand.
Cumbria CLIP were represented but unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch up with the lady before she left! I will leave it to the website to explain the role that CLIP play in the voluntary sector in Cumbria. The main point is getting youngsters involved in volunteering to give them a better grounding in the skills needed for work and later life.
What’s in it For Stanwix?
As far as SCA are concerned; maybe just a little bit of a higher profile amongst local organisations and hopefully maybe another volunteer or 2 to come along and help run the ship! And the word on the street is that there might even be someone ready to step up to the plate!
While we’re in the final throes of this screed, a few words of thanks. To all the volunteer groups who came out and made the day possible. To Pam McCall and Paul Nedved for organising the whole shebang. To Mark Costello for actually rounding up the majority of groups who came. To Gill, Jacky, Colin & Hamish for lending their support. And an extra big thanks to Shona Park for making sure that there was cake! A fine job! We also much appreciate the coverage from Cumbria Newspaper’s Chris Story. Every little helps!