Crossroads Care (Mid-Yorkshire branch) was named after the long-running TV programme, which portrayed dealing with disability in a sympathetic manner and helped with the financial start-up of what became a national organisation. Thirty-six years later, Crossroads Care provides a range of high quality support services for carers and the people they look after, whatever their age or illness or disability. The Mid-Yorkshire branch, based in Huddersfield, works with over 500 families with caring responsibilities and they say as well as providing support: “it’s important in this time of austerity to keep carers and their selfless contribution on the map and in the public eye”.
Otley Courthouse is an arts and resource centre for the whole community. Over 100 volunteers help to provide theatre, music, film, literature, comedy and dance. Add to that rehearsals and performances by Otley Brass Band, Otley Chamber Orchestra and Otley Community Choir, plus activities like Baby Sing and Sign and Exercise for the over 55s and many more. And when you’re exhausted, you can go and recover in the volunteer-run community cafe, which is open six days a week. No wonder our assessors reported “a buzz around the buildings”.
Burmantofts Senior Action, in Leeds, currently helps over 700 elderly people. The project aims to support older people in the community by helping them live independently at home, relieving isolation and loneliness and by providing services no longer available from statutory organisations. The group also gives local older people a voice in their community. This is a real grass roots organisation, trusted by local people who feel comfortable sharing personal problems with the BSA volunteers and workers. “We would not know what to do without you” sums up BSA’s place in the community.
Meltham Over 60s is one of those organisations which, if it didn’t exist, would have to be invented for the sake and well-being of the village community. Activities range from the University of the Third Age and Adult Education night school classes, through to quizzes, games, musical entertainments and seasonal treats like parkin, pie and peas and Christmas cake. Its members also help other village groups, for example providing refreshments at the Scouts’ Fair and the Church Bring and Buy Sale.
Bradford South and West Live at Home Scheme is a community-led organisation that provides activities for the elderly. The Scheme provides coffee mornings, exercise classes, day care, telephone befriending and one-to-one befriending services. The six paid staff and 50 enthusiastic volunteers keep all of this running on three separate venues in Wibsey, Buttershaw and Clayton.
Young at Heart Club meets in the Supporters Bar at Halifax Shay Stadium. It runs activities for older people in Halifax, which the local authority no longer provides. Members enjoy Zumba, a variety of table games, darts, Wii and kurling and occasional days out. As important is the social contact and the camaraderie – “strangers become friends at the Shay”.
Disability Partnership Calderdale is owned, led and staffed by the Calderdale disabled community. It provides advice on where and how disabled people can obtain services. It is also a strong and informed voice for disabled people with agencies such as the local authority, the NHS, housing providers, the Benefits Agency and others. An enthusiastic, experienced organisation, extremely professional in the way it conducts its business, Calderdale would be a poorer place, particularly for disabled people, if this partnership did not exist.
Hirst Wood Regeneration Community Interest Group, based in Bradford, is run and supported purely by residents. To date, they have established gardens and seats at the canal locks, cleared wasteland and planted trees and encouraged residents to improve their gardens and clean up the streets. Many outside groups, including young offenders, children excluded from school and Shipley Agricultural College, are also working on the project. There is still much to do but the community’s enthusiasm and energy have already created a new sense of pride in their neighbourhood.
Castleford RUFC is a sporting club, which has now rediscovered its community focus. Ten years ago, this was just a male rugby club, but not anymore. Today, it has junior boys and girls teams and adult mixed ability sides. But it is also a community hub for galas and neighbourhood meetings, and the Castleford White Rose Ladies AFC and a Disability Sports Day. It puts so much back into the community, especially for the young, the vulnerable and the disabled and does so through the massive use of volunteers. Not just a rugby club, but now a community asset for all.
Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service provides out-of-hours services to people in acute mental health crisis, to help prevent them from going into psychiatric hospital and using statutory services. The complexity of modern society places extraordinary demands on many people ill-equipped to cope, and for which the established state operations are not delivering the necessary essential support. Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service seeks to meet the individual needs of service users and does so by using the hard-earned experience of their numerous volunteers, many of whom have their own experiences of mental health problems.
Parkgate Sports and Community Trust Ltd, based in Skelmanthorpe, is reclaiming a former coal spoil heap and coal washing plant site to develop an indoor and outdoor multi-purpose amenity with sporting facilities and educational, social and leisure facilities. The idea originated in the local community and it continues to derive its drive and energy from local people. This is an ambitious, large-scale project, but the enthusiasm is palpable, and people are not frightened by the size of the enterprise.
Friends of Prince of Wales Park, in Bingley, is a community-led group working for the benefit and enjoyment of a much wider population than the immediate community. They have persuaded the local population into supporting them with expertise as well as physical and financial contributions. Teams of volunteers, led by enthusiastic and energetic leaders, are doing some amazing work. But each to his own, a local ex-confectioner delivers cakes to the working teams twice weekly, and the hotel across the road sends over large thermoses of coffee. The Friends are making sure a superb public facility isn’t lost to future generations.
Kidzaware fills a hole and a need in Wakefield by providing in-depth knowledge and assistance with all the complexities of life for disadvantaged children and their parents. Work ranges from form-filling, through to medical assistance, to raising awareness of bullying, to racism and disability. Some of the volunteers have first-hand experience, either through their children or their own lives, and use this to good effect. Take away this group of very enthusiastic and dedicated individuals, and there would be such gaping holes in the support network that many families would suffer great hardship.
Friends of Cross Flatts Park, in Leeds, is the quintessential community activity, members of the community coming together to clean up a derelict park and put it back into communal use. They have done a tremendous job turning round a run-down and vandalised park, which had become notorious as a place for drug users, fly-tippers, burned-out cars and the like. In so doing, they have made Beeston a better, friendlier place.