Mutual aid groups in the Colne Valley have added something a little extra to their food deliveries after local organisations got together to create a recipe book. As well as being value for money, the recipes in the book are easy to make and are nutritionally balanced.
Third Sector Leaders Kirklees supported the groups with funding from One Community and One 17 Charitable Trust have produced the book. The recipe books will now be given out with food packs in the Colne Valley.
Liz Quinn, a director of Pride in Linthwaite, has put together the recipes. She says in the book:
“I’m an NHS dietician in my day job and I felt that this was something that I could help with. I tried to keep the recipes nutritionally balanced and easy to prepare, inexpensive and accessible for everyone. Tinned, dried and frozen foods can be a fantastic source of nutrients. We hope you enjoy the recipes.”
Among the 18 recipes are the likes of Sausage and Bean Stew, Pea and Pesto Soup, Tuna Pasta Bake and Tinned Meat Hash. If you fancy a dessert there is Banana Flapjack.
Just as different ingredients come together to make a healthy meal, it is the many different groups within a community working together who can make useful projects like this happen.
Co-operative Care Colne Valley are the community anchor organisation who are working with community groups and citizens to respond to needs and priorities across the Colne Valley. Along with mutual aid and community groups, they have been at the heart of support for the community during the Covid-19 crisis, providing food supplies, supporting isolated people and developing community activities in Linthwaite, Slaithwaite, Marsden and Golcar.
Community anchor organisations such as Co-operative Care Colne Valley play a significant role in bringing local groups together to help make healthier and happier communities.
In spring 2020, Kirklees Council more than doubled the funding that ward councillors have available to support local projects in their area. Through this extra £30,000 of funding per ward, councillors are able to support the groups, projects and volunteers who are such a vital part of the community response to Covid-19. We’re sharing some stories from different wards, so you can see how councillors are using these funds in our local places.
Pride in Linthwaite were able to quickly transform into a mutual aid group, providing support to vulnerable people in Linthwaite and Cowlersley, when the lockdown was announced. The group (who had formed two and a half years earlier) quickly adapted from their usual activities of litter picking, community fundraising and events.
Setting up and running something new isn’t easy. All the practicalities are challenges. It can also be a challenge convincing people of your group’s value to the local area. Pride in Linthwaite had seen a mixed response to their usual activities. Some people volunteered hands-on support with things like litter picks, some were supportive from a distance and attended events, but others were not sure why the group was needed. Experiences over the past few months have helped more people to see the value of Pride in Linthwaite.
We spoke to Liz Quinn, NHS nurse and one of the directors of Pride in Linthwaite. Liz told us about some of the group’s work, how people have worked together during lockdown and the new-found trust that has changed how some local people see the group.
“Pretty much the first thing we did was get a leaflet together with a helpline number and did a mass leaflet drop to households. We wanted to make sure people knew who to contact if they were in need. We also had people contacting us to volunteer as things quickly escalated.
“Volunteers were delivering food and collecting prescriptions, they were dog walking and supporting a befriending service.
“Small acts of kindness can be simply heart-warming. One lady who was self-isolating was panicking about being able to post birthday cards to her nieces. We arranged for her to leave them on her doorstep, collected and posted them. She had been so anxious about not being able to post them, and was so grateful that someone was there to help her do this.”
“We’ve recorded in total over 220 ‘volunteering acts’ but this is likely to be more, through things such as the befriending service. Once someone had made contact, they would then make their own arrangements for continuing that connection.”
Whilst it takes a lot of energy and commitment to create new ways of supporting people, sometimes a little bit of funding is needed too. The local Colne Valley ward councillors were on hand to support the group:
“Two of our local councillors, Cllr Rob Walker and Cllr Donna Bellamy, were able to provide some funding from their own budgets that they’d been given to support groups who are part of the community response to the coronavirus. This meant we could start making up food parcels for those people who were self-isolating. It was nice that they worked together for the good of the community and put any party politics to one side.
“We were so lucky to have the ward councillors on board and all those volunteers, but we also had support from Morrisons supermarket in Meltham, who were fantastic by donating food. Also the manager and staff of the local Premier shop were able to just help us get what we needed for a person in need, particularly if it was an emergency. They were just brilliant.”
Relationships and partnerships have been a key part of Pride in Linthwaite’s ability to respond so well to the needs of the community. Liz explained how relationships have developed over the last few months:
“Whilst we are looking to wrap-up the mutual aid group side of things, it has enabled us to gain the trust of more people locally and strengthen our partnerships.
“All the volunteers want to remain part of the WhatsApp group we have, so if there is any ever need to mobilise again, they will be there. The socially distanced litter pick we’re organising has already got more people signed up to help than we’ve had before. There is a good feeling about the group and I think a change in perception about Pride in Linthwaite.
“We were all thrown in at the deep end. I think the council support has been really good, especially when we started. Even though it was chaotic for everyone they provided information and guidance. It was a shared journey. Links with councillors and local businesses have been excellent.
“Feedback from the people we’re all helping – moving them from state of panic to relief – has been something every one of us has had a role in.”
Crafty Home are inviting Mutual Aid Group co-ordinators and volunteers to attend a FREE art workshop. After a particularly intense time of helping and supporting your communities, what better way to relax, unwind and let your imagination run free?
Not artistic? Not a problem. This is a way of saying thank you for the amazing work you’ve done, to share in some downtime together, reflect, paint, draw or make.
You don’t have to be an artist to take part and the workshops are free of charge, but places are limited so please get in touch as soon as possible.
The first event for mutual aid co-ordinators and admins is on 25th July 2020 at the Piazza (Unit 16 next to USC shoe store) from 11.30am.
The second event for volunteers and those who couldn’t make to the first one is on 1st August 2020 form 11.30am, also at Unit 16 at the Piazza.
The story of Shelley village’s community response is about kindness, new connections and how Covid-19 has perhaps made us look at our local places in different ways. It’s a story that may be familiar to those who have been directly involved with their own mutual aid group.
Many people in our local places have benefitted from the actions of dedicated mutual aid group volunteers, who have helped to deliver essential supplies such as food shopping and prescriptions. When a potential lockdown began to look likely, it prompted some active residents of Shelley village to come together and form their own mutual aid group. We spoke to Ann Priestman from Shelley Community Association about how everything unfolded…
“There was a core group of people from the village including the vicar, pub landlord, Brownie leader, leader of the mother and baby group and a resident who is a community first responder with the paramedics, along with several other active residents.
“Within just a couple of hours we had assigned roles. Two volunteers to coordinate and lead the response. Someone responsible for social media and the website. We knew it was important to communicate the offer of support to all residents, not just those online, so we developed a leaflet that could be delivered to every household.
“A group of eight volunteers were able to get out and deliver the leaflets and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Lockdown had just been announced and people were already feeling scared and concerned about how they would get food and prescriptions. The leaflet gave them reassurance that there was help in the local community.”
This was just the beginning of the community response from Shelley village. The landlord from the village pub set up a small farmers market so residents had access to fresh fruit and vegetables along with other produce. He also did deliveries to those who were shielding. The Brownies made happy postcards and painted rocks which they put around the village.
A call out for more help generated a whole team of extra volunteers. Over the next few weeks these volunteers delivered nearly 150 prescriptions and made almost 50 shopping deliveries. Ann explained that was not all, and the figures don’t necessarily reflect the reality.
“Once a volunteer had been matched to support a resident, future deliveries were often worked out between them. Volunteers also started to help residents with other things such as mowing lawns or tidying gardens. One couple even took a resident to all of her hospital appointments.”
“The Denby Dale Centre were great, particularly when residents could only pay for shopping using cash. The centre had a system in place which meant transactions could be done transparently for residents and the volunteers helping them.”
We asked what impact lockdown has had on Shelley village overall. Is there a sense that community links have strengthened? Ann explained her thoughts to us:
“People have been saying on Facebook and in conversation this is a great place to live and people are really thankful that they are getting help in their village. There is a sense that people are looking out for each other and their neighbours. People are talking to each other who they wouldn’t normally. They have connected and bonded.”
In October 2019 Ann was one of a group of volunteers leading the Ask Shelley conversations, which asked what life is like in Shelley village. Supported by the Democracy Service at Kirklees Council, Ask Shelley is one of a growing number of ongoing How Good Is Our Place activities in our local places. This programme of work recognises that citizens want to have more dialogue about what matters in our local places, and more of a voice in what happens here.
Ann told us that she thinks recent events will have changed how some people think about Shelley:
“During the Ask Shelley activities, some of the findings were a little negative about the village not having many facilities and some residents feeling that other surrounding villages had more to offer. I believe if the Ask Shelley engagement was carried out today it would be a lot more positive, as people have rediscovered their pride for the village.”
Volunteers in Shelley have been working on an action plan for the village, based on their conversations, which will be shared online soon.
The creation of Golcar Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group was swift. In local places across Kirklees it seemed that mutual aid groups had almost sprung up overnight. But groups don’t magically appear. In Golcar village, as in other local places, it took a group of likeminded citizens to decide to come together as part of a community response to Covic-19.
Jane Smith, coordinator of the Golcar group, told us what sparked her into action, how a group of volunteers quickly emerged, what they have achieved together and how the amazing work goes on…
“With 90+ year old parents I was only too aware of the threat Covid-19 would be to the elderly and wondered how they would manage if, as seemed likely, they would have to go into lockdown and that their carers or family members may also be forced to self-isolate due to infection.
“After searching online and chatting to a few people it became obvious that no one was actually “there” to tell us what to do. It was a very confusing time. However it was very clear that if we wanted something to be done, we would have to do it ourselves.”
Jane describes the first week as being “a blur of working crazy long days”. At the end of that week though there was a group of 30 volunteers and a leaflet with a freephone number. After lockdown was announced, the volunteers delivered these leaflets to 3,600 households in just two days.
Whilst receiving requests for help generated by the leaflet drop, they were also inundated with people coming forward to volunteer their help.
The group assisted with shopping, postal runs, and actively sought out those people who are isolated to make sure they were getting the assistance they needed, even if that was just about having someone to talk to. The group have a ‘Chatterbox’ team who operate like a befriending service, to make sure people who are isolated don’t get lonely.
As well as deliveries and phone calls there was making, providing and working in partnership.
“Our fabulously industrious Makers have made 413 laundry bags, 76 sets of scrubs, courtesy of Clare Quartermain’s wonderful Scrub Hub, and 118 ear protectors. As a result we have been able to provide these to Calderdale & HRI Trust community midwives, Field Head Surgery, Crimson Manor, Knowle Court and New Street Surgery.
“We also work in conjunction with the wonderful Clem’s Garden nursery to provide flower posies every fortnight to our buddied residents – our ‘You are Not Forgotten’ flowers.
“We are working with Grow to School’s “Growing Together Kirklees” project and delivering grow your own supplies to Knowle Court and Carlton Specialist Services for their vegetable patch, which we hear some of the residents are really enjoying.
“We are taking book donations to start a Mobile Lockdown Library, to deliver books to those still behind the shield with underlying health conditions.
“We are working with Carlton Autistic Care Home to provide props for their themed event seaside day.”
Participants have contributed cards, chocolates and arts & crafts materials for residents and staff at Knowle Court and Crimson Manor. Other donations have included clothes, toys, books, food and toiletries for local families in need. The group have even formed a Collie Squad to help out with regular dog walking for those who can’t get out.
How everyone has worked together is a recurring message in Jane’s story. She explained that it is important to think of everyone’s contribution when it comes to community, neighbourliness and a sense of place.
“When I look back on what this village has achieved over the last two months, I am struck by how much talent, skill and goodwill is out there. In our village we have telecoms specialists, IT experts, professional machinists, florists, librarians, knitters, crocheters, sewers, card makers, artists, locksmiths, electricians, plumbers and even one couturier! Each in their own way have contributed to this support.
“I count myself lucky to live in such a lovely place, with such wonderful people.”
Third Sector Leaders Kirklees are hosting an online event on Thursday 25th June 2020 for mutual aid groups and other voluntary groups in Kirklees. You can get help with information about funding, volunteering and support.
If you’ve been helping run a Mutual Aid Group or other voluntary group over the last few months, you might now be wondering about how to develop your group and keep it going for the benefit of your community. This event will help you explore what the possibilities and options are, enabling you to continue the invaluable work you have been doing.
You will no doubt have already faced operational challenges over the last few months. Third Sector Leaders Kirklees recognise this and through working in partnership with Kirklees Council’s Democracy team and other experts, will be able to support you with a considerable range of advice and insights to take your next steps.
The meeting will take place on Zoom, from 6pm to 7.30pm.
Loneliness can be difficult to talk about. It’s hard for people to say sometimes that they feel lonely. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The last few weeks in lockdown will potentially have highlighted to some of us what loneliness is who haven’t previously given it a second thought. There are others who may well have felt lonely even before lockdown.
Writing something to share that dwelled on all the effects loneliness can have on our mental and physical wellbeing didn’t feel quite appropriate. What so many Mutual Aid Groups, volunteers and neighbours have been doing over the last few weeks is a demonstration that loneliness and isolation is being tackled, that we are aware and collectively we are doing something about it.
Tackling loneliness may have been disguised as the shopping you’ve done for a vulnerable neighbour, or picking up that prescription from the pharmacy, because the other part of that action is the conversation you’ve had with those people and making sure they’re okay. Small human interactions can make all the difference.
How many of you have seen or helped out celebrating an older person’s birthday who lives on your street? How many of you have clapped for carers on a Thursday evening, then exchanged words with neighbours you haven’t really talked to before?
The actions of groups, volunteers, friends and neighbours have helped to reduce isolation, and have demonstrated the caring nature of people and communities. Together we’ve done that.
Yet there is still a need for vigilance and awareness beyond our own neighbourhoods. There is always potential for individuals to fall through the gaps, but there are also local volunteer befriending services who do amazing work to catch those people.
The challenge for us all will be to maintain our neighbourliness beyond lockdown and to keep talking to each other, to keep visiting those who may be more vulnerable, whether that’s an older person or someone who you know that isn’t as socially mobile as they would like to be.
You might have been inspired yourself to sign up to be a volunteer at the befriending service, or know someone who you think might want to do that. We should all encourage that as an option. But we should all keep doing what we’re doing.
If you want to read more about the Befriending Partnership in Kirklees, read our blog:
Staying connected really matters for us all, now more than ever. It’s important that everyone can find out what support is available and have easy ways of keeping in touch. But not everyone has access to the internet to help with this, and not everyone feels confident using digital ways of communicating. We want to work out how, between us, we can best help with that.
Kirklees Council are working to find ways of supporting people, by removing any barriers to accessing the internet. This may be through providing IT devices. But it’s also important that we find ways of supporting people in using, or starting to use, digital technology.
Mutual Aid Groups and community organisations are incredibly well placed to support this project as you know the neighbourhoods and people in the areas where you live and work. So we are hoping that you might be able to work with us to develop this offer.
Volunteers in your group might be able to support others with growing their digital skills and confidence. This might include helping people to get started with using a digital device, connecting with family or friends, doing online shopping or accessing advice and services online. Or you might be part of an organisation who could share smartphones, tablets or other devices with people in our local places.
Together we can have a fantastically positive effect in increasing connectivity in our communities during Covid-19, but also as we move past the pandemic into the future.
The Befriending Partnership are helping to tackle isolation through a telephone service set up to support older people and vulnerable adults, as part of the community response during the coronavirus lockdown.
Volunteers who give their time to the Befriending Partnership are matched with citizens who are known to the organisations as needing contact, to make sure they are okay in their homes and to help reduce feelings of isolation.
The telephone befriending service is led by Community Connections at the Yorkshire Children’s Centre and Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees.
We spoke to Christine Rhodes, Service Manager for Community Connections, about how people have been making connections and helping each other during lockdown.
“In the last few weeks we have seen our volunteer numbers grow to 90, and we have made 56 matches to those who need befriending phone calls. Our volunteers spend between 2 to 4 hours a week on calls with vulnerable or isolated people. We try and match people with similar interests and in the same local areas, with the hope they will carry on befriending afterwards, hopefully face to face.
“Of the 90 volunteers we have at the moment, around 35 have been forwarded from Kirklees Council’s call for volunteers and from staff that have been furloughed from elsewhere. The other volunteers have come in from all areas and walks of life.
“Referrals for the service come in from the Covid-19 Community Response team, from the community anchor organisations network and also now from the mutual aid groups who are doing brilliant work all over Kirklees.”
The volunteers not only phone people to have a friendly chat, but also receive training from the Befriending Partnership to help identify if someone needs other kinds of support. You can read Mark’s story on the Volunteering Kirklees blog to find out more about the experience for volunteers.
Christine told us that, until recently, one person was getting their shopping delivered. The volunteer identified that this had stopped and was able to feedback this information via a new app the Befriending Service are using. This resulted in a referral being made, making sure that the person received the essential supplies they needed.
The service continues to grow and more people are being welcomed to volunteer. We know there are many compassionate people in Kirklees who are keen to offer friendly phone calls to others. We’ve asked the people who have volunteered to offer this kind of support via our Covid-19 Community Response whether we can share their details with the Befriending Partnership.
We’re delighted to say that this has already resulted in a surge of new volunteers. Training is provided for all volunteers and enhanced ID checks are carried out routinely to make sure we are keeping vulnerable people safe.
“The Befriending Service is very important and is still growing. We know this is true of other support services too. We’re very supportive of the Mutual Aid Group network and the amazing work they’re doing too. It’s all about making sure vulnerable people don’t fall through the gaps and we’re doing all we can.
“I hope the volunteers signed up to the Befriending Service now, will continue to volunteer when we come out of the other side. And I hope those volunteering elsewhere in their communities continue as well.”
If you are interested in being a Telephone Befriender with full training and support please email: email@example.com or call the team on 07849 398710 for more information.
If you, or someone you know, would like telephone befriending support please let us know via our Covid-19 Community Response online form, or call our Freephone helpline: 0800 4561114.
Find out more about the Befriending Partnership
There are five organisations involved in the wider Befriending Partnership in Kirklees. During the Covid-19 Community Response, the specific telephone befriending service has been set up by the Yorkshire Children’s Centre and Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees. They are also working closely with the Royal Voluntary Service and some of the volunteers have been matched with people on their waiting lists too.
We know that many people in our community will continue to need support in accessing food as the lockdown is lifted. We also want to make sure that the support network we have built together remains sustainable as we gradually move past Covid-19. So we are developing a Kirklees Food Network to connect everyone.
If you’re currently providing a food offer to support vulnerable people through your Mutual Aid Group or local organisation and would like to be part of the Kirklees Food Network, we’d like to hear form you. Your food offer might be either food parcels, food donations, a food bank or hot food.
This is an informal support network where you will:
Have support in your local place from one of the 3 main foodbanks across Kirklees – The Welcome Centre in Huddersfield, Fusion in Dewsbury or Batley Foodbank.
Be signposted to further support for the people you’re helping.
Access support, guidance and advice around local welfare provision, food safety, safeguarding, housing and other essential policies.
Share good practice and ensure any gaps in provision are highlighted.
Access support from Councillors, Kirklees Council staff and other local community organisations.
Help to ensure our food offer is stable beyond Covid-19.
Join the network
If you would like to access this support, and be part of the network, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Rebecca Strutt, Transformation Project Manager directly on 07790 349978. Thank you.