HELLO FROM KAREN JORDAN
Good Neighbour volunteers, continue their invaluable support to local communities throughout 2023, despite some on-going challenges with volunteer recruitment. Thank you!
This year volunteers have become more of a precious resource than ever as calls on their time increase. National trends in volunteering show declines in volunteer numbers, one factor often referenced is that with child care costs so high, grandparents (many of them potential good neighbours) are in even greater demand to look after family and no longer have much time available to volunteer, with the inevitable impact on volunteer recruitment.
Although in better news, many Good Neighbour groups report how successful they have been in recruiting a significant number of younger volunteers, often from new housing areas, and the importance of having a consistent, dynamic social media presence and website to attract the younger more digitally savvy.
Another worthwhile recruitment success reported from across the Network, has been the ‘coffee and chat’ mornings offering a ‘light touch’ introduction into what the groups actually get up to in their local community and giving a first-hand opportunity to share how uplifting it always is to help people.
Feedback from GN groups that the high fuel price was having a negative impact on volunteers, resulted in a campaign across the Good Neighbours Network to raise awareness with this important issue and create a petition to raise the mileage rate from 45p a mile to 60p. The petition gained over 41,000 signatures and was debated in Westminster Hall. Thank you to MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Elliot Colburn, for listening to the concerns of Good Neighbours groups and for articulating that concern from within government. Sadly, despite high hopes for the Autumn’23 statement, and some substantial media coverage no increase is in sight yet, but we continue the fight…
The GoTo E-bike pilot project funded by the Department of Transport was in full swing on Hayling Island and in Hartley Wintney over the summer, with people enjoying escorted bike trips and having their groceries delivered, the project was successfully completed in September. A huge thank you to Lin Green and Chris Cornwell for your pioneering spirit!
Finally, it is always a pleasure and an honour to be in contact with so many groups and GN volunteers on such a regular basis and to continue to contribute to this powerful Network of community well-being.
❤️ Good Neighbours
Data from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) UK Giving Report found that only 13% of people said they volunteered in the last year, compared with 17% pre-pandemic representing about 1.6 million fewer people volunteering over the last five years.
GNN statistics reflect a small decline in the volunteers this year of approx.5%, but an increase of approx. 15% for acts of kindness delivered.
Sarah Vibert CEO of NCVO said: “Given how important volunteering is to our social fabric – and how much people get out of it – we need an urgent focus on helping people find opportunities that suit them.”
GNN is adept at balancing both opportunities and time for each volunteer, as every local group is ‘plugged in’ to its own community.
Even though it won’t replace face-to-face activities, digital volunteering continues to gain traction, and trends like micro-volunteering will become more common practice as time and money become ever increasing pressures. Many groups and volunteers will find that they naturally embrace this already as demonstrated in the graphic below.
This year, groups have shared tales that range from deliveries of manure by bike, driving animals to the vet, including a venomous snake, and a Good Neighbours group that arranged the funeral for a much loved community champion.
Overall groups have highlighted a significant increase in social activities, as communities grow in confidence post Covid and actively look to re-engage in a safe environment with the all-important social side of life.
The Network has welcomed five new community cafes, light lunch initiatives and inter-generational baking classes as part of new GNN activity.
FORGET-ME-NOT-CAFÉ, HARTLEY WINTNEY
‘My husband and I went to the FORGET-ME-NOT-CAFÉ for several years. It was established in 2014 to provide a safe haven for those living with dementia and their carers. What it meant to us was I didn’t have to put a brave face on our situation and he didn’t have to pretend to follow a conversation or know who he was talking to.
The volunteers are a super group of people who are caring, understanding and thoughtful. They just chat and we laugh and joke, drink tea, eat cake and play games, read memory books – it’s food for the soul. For me, I was with people who understood what I was going through and we made friends with kindred spirits who supported each other, all made possible through the FORGET-ME-NOT-CAFÉ!’
EAST WOODHAY, GOOD NEIGHBOURS
‘One of our main activities is to deliver prescriptions usually on a Friday morning and we wanted to share this tale of sheer determination from one of our intrepid volunteers – a client ordered insulin a little late and it was out of stock from the dispensing doctors, Good Neighbour, Stuart received a paper prescription and as the client was housebound, he went to a number of different chemists over the weekend to try find the insulin but they were all out. And, by this time the client was out of medication, but Stuart (and his wife Gayle) kept in contact with the client over the weekend with updates and as soon as the doctors had opened on Monday were in contact for an alternative prescription that was available, they then went to collect the insulin and delivered to the client with a smile.’
‘We are often given feedback from our grateful clients as to how much they appreciate the service we offer – that is not only getting the client to their appointment but also having someone to chat with for a few hours. A Good Neighbour stays with the client and it really is an invaluable service on many levels, especially beneficial for those who may be a little anxious, to have a regular volunteer who has the time to give is a true gift in today’s times.’
Friends of Fareham Community Hospital
‘One of our volunteers recently was able to help an elderly gentleman with dementia whose car had broken down. She found him in the street looking lost and confused and felt able to help him to get home and his car recovered. She said that her newfound skills that she has developed doing her volunteer duties gave her the confidence to ask the right questions, in the right way to ensure a safe outcome for the gentleman. Our volunteer said that she had recently completed the dementia training module and found this very useful in this situation.’
Fareham & Gosport Voluntary Car Service
‘One of our elderly clients has a sister who lives 50 miles away near Brighton. She has rarely been able to see her recently. We asked our drivers and three have volunteered to arrange day trips to Brighton so that our client can spend ~4 hours with her sister. We expect to arrange regular trips, perhaps monthly and have even been able to make arrangements to enable her to spend a few days there over Christmas. One less person will be lonely this Christmas.’
An inter-generational food project created by GO TO bikes and St M’s, Paulsgrove – cooking and delivering hot homemade fishcakes to the community, with a little help from local children and the army.
‘One client is responsible for opening the local church meeting rooms for events held each week. She does not drive and has limited mobility. Until recently her husband drove her but he has become unwell. She turned to our Good Neighbours group to take her and a volunteer now does this twice a week.’
PETERSFIELD VOLUNTARY CARE GROUP
Short-listed for a contribution to the Community, Petersfield award and received a certificate of commendation.
‘A wonderful caring and helpful group, that I could not manage without’.
ROSIES MINI BUS
‘Provide weekly transport for those suffering from dementia and loneliness and their carers, in the Hart area of Hampshire, taking them from their homes to a social event and are frequently thanked for the valuable service they provide.’
The glorious summer of 2023 saw GN groups celebrating the Coronation of King Charles III and promoting the Big Help Out initiative into GNN acts of kindness.
King Charles III invited millions of Britons to support causes in their local communities on the bank holiday Monday, of the Coronation weekend – many GNN groups ran drop in volunteer taster sessions to promote the Big Help Out and encourage positive awareness of the power of volunteering, alongside celebrations and parties across the Network to commemorate the coronation of King Charles III.
As so many worthwhile organisations chase ever decreasing pots of money, the need for sustainable funding has never seemed more important or so difficult to secure. With the country righting itself from the pandemic, the alarming cost of living crisis and now the effects of two significant wars in the world, all before we get to the considerations around climate change, we find ourselves in unsettled times.
The call on the social care infrastructure, which good neighbours actively supports seem endless, the health related trips of which over 57,000 were delivered in 2023, provide a tangible, cost benefit and all-important route to recovery for many thousands of people. In the recent GNN Impact Report, 2020 (we do one every five years) – it was estimated that transport delivered by Good Neighbours provided a saving of £2,642,278 to the NHS.
The Integrated Care Board (ICB) has continued to fund the Network this year (2023-24), for which we are very grateful, however, there are no guarantees that with the continued calls on health budgets this will continue.
WHAT WE ARE DOING?
The Council for Social Responsibility (CSR), the social action charity connected to the Diocese of Portsmouth, that provides the umbrella for the GNN has agreed to underpin funding from its own reserves for 2024 to guarantee Good Neighbour support and will be recruiting a fundraiser to secure long term funding for the Network. It is worth noting that in 2020, CSR had a £61.31 per volunteer total organisational cost and when compared against a national organisation that also offers a good neighbourly comparable service, although with significantly more staff that cost was £3,271 per volunteer.
We are also looking at the potential for sponsorship, additional project funded work (such as the recent GO TO pilot for the Department of Transport), legacy and trust funding and the potential for a Good Neighbours membership schemes.
We all agree that this peer-led and self-organising Network is too valuable to lose!
In 2024 we will develop some additional learning tools and marketing tips, and will be making greater use of the GNN website as we bring in-house resources and policies to a members only section
GNN is working on some creative interventions and partnerships around positive energy – we will update more on this Spring 2024.
CANON NICK RALPH, CHAIR GNN
The sterling work of Good Neighbours group volunteers in the last year has continued since covid and there was a near 15% increase in acts of kindness delivered. It is particularly good to see the significant recovery in social activities. While many GPs are consulting people on the telephone or on-line, there has still be an increase in transport to healthcare settings. For the first time in several years, though, the number of volunteers has dropped below 4,000. That said, the number of new volunteers recruited was up by 7%. It highlights the need to recruit more volunteers to replace those who are leaving but we know this is challenging when people are having to work longer to pay their bills and look after family due to cost of living challenges.
We would like to pay tribute to all those who have given their time and energies to support their neighbours in local communities over the last year, whether as volunteers directly supporting people or as co-ordinators and committee members; everyone has a part to play.
The Good Neighbours Network was started around 1976 by Beryl Kenchington, a social worker who at the time was living in Swanmore and worked with the local vicar the Revd John Townsend to set up the first group. I had the privilege of meeting her not long ago and this year she reached her 100th birthday – happy birthday to her. The Network has been going therefore for 47 years.
This year we have also supported the GOTO project funded by the Department for Transport and you may have seen this piloted in a few areas around the county, notably Hayling Island, and Hartley Witney. The project has now ended but the work undertaken was one of the most successful of the projects funded and the feedback gathered by the University of Winchester was high quality. Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make that such a success.
This year has been a particularly challenging year for GNN which is hosted by Portsmouth Diocesan Council for Social Responsibility (CSR). Its work has long been funded by a combination of grants from Adult Services in Hampshire County Council and the health commissioners as they see the value in what they call ‘prevention’ – in other words – any actions that keep people healthy and well, and prevent or avoid risk of poor health, illness, or injury’. Unfortunately, as you may be aware, the funding received by local authorities has not only failed to keep pace with inflation but been reduced in recent years by 30% so they are now extremely limited in what they can afford to support. As a result of this, Hampshire were unable to fund GNN from April 2023. We have, however, continued to receive funding from the health commissioners for which we are very grateful.
We are actively exploring alternative funding including working with energy companies and we are in the process of developing grant applications and considering appropriate project work.. We may also need to consider a membership structure which might include a small membership fee but at this stage, membership of the Network continues to be free to all groups in or serving Hampshire and the benefits of membership include:
CSR has undertaken to continue to support GNN this year and into next year and will do so for as long as it can. We are working on long term solutions and will keep groups in the network updated when we have news to pass on. We have plans for increasing our work on campaigns and projects and we are hoping to have another annual event in 2024 giving a much missed opportunity to meet again and network, share stories, listen and be heard.
We are particularly grateful to all those who have assisted with GNN and GOTO this year but particularly Karen Jordan who is the mainstay of GNN, for her dedication and hard work.
Canon Nick Ralph