Community Voices is about hearing the views of residents, especially those who are seldom heard, specifically in relation to health.
Did you know that the NHS has a duty to involve local communities when health service changes are being considered? Did you know that local voluntary or community organisations can train for free to get the knowledge and skills to carry out accredited engagement and consultation work locally?
The Community Voices programme supports voluntary and community organisations with training for their staff or volunteers to become an accredited ‘Community Voice’ and then seek the views of the organisation’s members to inform health service changes. Local groups and organisations are really well placed to help residents have a voice.
Once the accredited training has been completed, groups can earn money for their local voluntary or community organisation for each survey completed. Accreditation lasts for 12 months, at which point a refresher course needs to be taken.
The free training to help groups to become Community Voices has 5 elements:
Understanding how the NHS Works
Legal and Statutory Duties of the NHS
Methods and Approaches to Engagement and Consultation
A Practical Task
Equalities, safeguarding and review and evaluation
The next virtual Community Voices training runs on the following dates:
Session 1: Wednesday 20th January 2021
Session 2: Wednesday 27th January 2021
Session 3: Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Session 4: Wednesday 10th March 2021
All sessions are held online through Zoom and last from 10am to 12 noon. Participants need to be able to commit to attending all four sessions.
If you are interested or want more information please email email@example.com or contact Laura Beesley on 07535 184368.
Third Sector Leaders Kirklees are a local charity who support and represent charities, community and groups, and social enterprises anywhere in Kirklees. They have been working incredibly hard to support local organisations and informal groups during Covid-19 and are keen for you to know what free support is available for groups in all our local places. Groups and organisations do not need to become members in order to access this free support.
TSL Kirklees offer a free volunteer matching service. The TSL Kirklees Volunteering team (formerly known as Volunteering Kirklees) work with organisations to develop their volunteering programmes and opportunities. They can promote volunteering opportunities from local groups via their volunteering website:
Organisations can get involved in various TSL Kirklees projects which are designed to fill gaps in service and delivery and support communities. TSL Kirklees have some small pots of funding that groups can access to try out new ideas and activity in their local place.
TSL Kirklees membership – free to April 2021
In addition to all the free support on offer, any group or organisation can choose to become a member in order to help lead and promote the voluntary and community sector in Kirklees.
The benefits of membership include access to a Members Area on the TSL Kirklees website where groups can:
Add their own news and updates (these will appear on the TSL Kirklees website and will also be shared via email updates and social media)
Add job vacancies to the jobs board (again, these will be shared with the network)
Find member offers
Find details of other members
Join a members-only Facebook group
Members can also take part in additional networking meetings and will receive extra communications.
In March 2020, TSL Kirklees offered 3 months free membership to support local organisations who might be struggling financially during Covid-19. This offer has since been extended twice. The free membership offer is now available until April 2021.
Regular membership costs are:
£12 per year for micro or start-up organisations
£36 per year for any other organisations
If you’ve volunteered as part of the coronavirus lockdown over the last few months, helping to make sure the more vulnerable people in the community are looked after, you may be considering your next steps. It might be to do more volunteering, find employment or looking for a career change.
Help with finding work is at hand through Works Better. The team understands that this is a stressful time for job seekers and especially those who have recently been made redundant.
The support available includes:
Help to apply for Universal Credit
Advice on updating your CV
Searching for jobs
Preparing for interviews
Support with Job Applications and much more.
Works Better is an employment support programme that has been designed to help residents in Kirklees tackle barriers into work and find new employment opportunities in the future.
Currently, due to Covid-19, services are only being delivered via telephone and digitally, to make sure they comply with government guidance and that residents can still access this crucial support.
To access support from Works Better you must be out of work or unemployed and be a Kirklees resident aged 18+
Works Better Enhanced is part funded by the European Social Fund and managed by Kirklees Council. It is delivered across the Kirklees District in partnership with Fusion Housing, Paddock Community Trust, Proper Job Theatre Company and Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing.
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.”
The challenges people have faced over the last few months have not fazed or diminished our sense of community. Neighbourliness is thriving week after week in our local places, where we’re helping each other and finding new ways of connecting.
A way we can all celebrate community and neighbourliness is by joining in with the Great Get Together, which takes place from 19th to 21st June 2020. Whilst there won’t be any public gatherings or large events this year, we can all reach out across the weekend with acts of compassion and connection in a safe way to celebrate the power of community.
On your street
Here are just a few of the fun activities you could help arrange with neighbours on your street over the weekend:
Community singalong: pick a song, share lyrics, and schedule a time to step outside and sing together.
Have your own Bake-Off: bake and present your masterpiece to your community for judging
Share a garden: grow one type of vegetable and get the community to do the same. Share what you grow and perhaps use it to make the same recipe.
Design a Treasure Hunt (think of things to hide in your windows and gardens that children could find on their daily walks).
Wishing Trees: encourage everyone to leave a wish for the future.
Community recipe book: share a recipe per household and create a recipe book.
There are lots more ideas on the Great Get Together website:
More in Common Batley & Spen are part of the Jo Cox Foundation and remain the key partner in organising the Great Get Together. The group works year round to build strong and compassionate communities where everyone has a sense of identity and belonging. They are also a vital part of the community response in Kirklees, as one of our community anchor organisations.
There will be a More In Common assembly for schools in collaboration with a number of local head teachers on Friday 19th June. On Saturday 20 June, a regular Community Service event goes virtual with a community quiz to follow. Details of how to watch and take part in these, and many other events organised locally in the community will be shared on social media channels.
There is a planned digital art projection in Dewsbury town centre, featuring the work of artist, Ian Berry and messages of thanks, thoughts, hopes and prayers from people across Kirklees. Ian’s work and shared local images will be projected onto a building in Dewsbury town centre, on the evening of Friday 19th June after dark. The public are not being encouraged to attend in view of social distancing. Instead, a film will be created that will be shared on social media platforms. There is also a longer term plan for an outdoor exhibition to support the re-opening of local towns following lockdown.
Run for Jo
On Sunday 21st June people across the country are being encouraged to take part in the Run for Jo by doing a 2.5km or 6.5km run in their own community. Hundreds of people are also training for the run on the Strava running community.
It is important to remember that this week is also Loneliness Awareness Week. You might want to consider doing something to make sure those neighbours who are more isolated or unable to participate outside can remain a part of your community. Here are a few virtual activities you can organise:
Take a walk for someone who can’t – call someone isolated on your daily walk and describe what you see, smell, hear and feel.
Organise a telephone tree to reach those most isolated.
Call an old friend.
Host an album listening party.
Have a virtual Open Mic night.
Loneliness Awareness Week
Loneliness Awareness Week is about encouraging people to speak about it openly and understand loneliness, one conversation at a time.
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:
For things like the Welcome Mentors project to work, willing volunteers are needed and it’s always nice to hear first hand the stories of those directly involved. These stories from Volunteering Kirklees say more about the practical help that Mentors provide to migrants, along with what the volunteers get out the experience as individuals. It’s heart-warming stuff.
We’re working alongside our citizens and local organisations to make sure that together we can all support our neighbours and communities over the coming weeks. Our Community Response is aimed at supporting those who are most vulnerable and in need of support, and who cannot currently get this help directly from friends, relatives or neighbours.
Please let us know about the things you (or someone who you are concerned about) need help with. You can also tell us how you (or your organisation) can support others.