This month sees the end of the Thurcoft Big Local project after just over 12 years! 

By Rachel Cole, Senior Projects Officer

In 2011 Thurcroft was selected by the Local Trust, as part of their Big Local Initiative, and received £1 million pound.  The aim of this money was for the local community to get involved in making their community a better place to live, then and in the future.  Where and how this money was spent was entirely up to the local community and has been guided by a Partnership Board which has comprised entirely of local residents and people who are passionate about Thurcroft.   

The Big Local Project launched at the Gala in August 2012 and over the next 6-12 months a steering group/partnership was formed, a community profile was written, lots of consultation took place in the village to speak to residents about the project and to hear their ideas on how they would like the money to be spent.  The first formal plan was then written and submitted to Local Trust.  Since then, plans have been written every couple of years and funding has always been spent on projects identified in the plans.  The three core themes in the Plan have remained the same, Community Pride, Children and Young People and Making Big Local Happen.   

Over the years, lots of exciting things have taken place and many improvements have been made in the village.  Some examples of these are a Big Local information centre, litter picks and skips, allotment, youth clubs, luncheon club, employment advisor/jobs fairs, memorial benches, Covid 19 and food parcels, small grants and events which include gala, ice rink, fireworks, tea dances, day trips, summer play scheme and events for Christmas, Easter, and Halloween.  The greatest achievement was the opening of the Thurcroft Hub in March 2017, this will be the Big Local legacy and will hopefully be successful for many years to come. 

The youth group, events committee and the luncheon club are all now constituted groups, run by volunteers, who can now draw down their own funding to ensure that these services still continue for the community to enjoy in the future. 

A celebration event has been booked and planned for February 2024 where everyone who has ever been involved in the project can get together and celebrate what they have achieved over the past 12 years! 

This has been an amazing project and I feel privileged to have been part of it, I still can’t believe how quickly the years have gone! 

I have met some amazing people in Thurcroft, without the support of the local residents and their volunteering the Big Local project wouldn’t have been the success that it has.   

I wish Thurcroft and all its residents lots of luck for the future, as a community, they should be very proud of themselves!   

“A few from over the years” 

BL Information Centre Opens October 2013

Works start on the Thurcroft Hub                      

Tea Dance at the Club

First Litter Pick Takes Place  

Thurcroft Hub Opens March 2017 

Firework Display 2021 

New Years Workshop

By Janet Malsch, Community Engagement Officer

In an uplifting start to the year, Janet organised a New Year’s Workshop at the Unity Centre on both January 19th and 26th. The sessions were attended by a diverse group of 12 participants, creating a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.

The goal of the workshop was to reach out to new individuals, including council tenants and residents, and to learn more about RotherFed and the opportunities to get involved. This new approach workshop delved into the importance of establishing good routines, tracking habits, and focused on reflecting on the highlights of 2023, aspirations for 2024, and letting go of certain things to foster a positive and healthy year ahead.

The workshop attracted a total of 15 participants, including four council tenants and one BAME member. The overall feedback was highly positive, with participants expressing that they found the workshop beneficial with many creating positive habits going forward.

Why Do I Come To The Community Tree?

by Dan Barron and Sam Dixon, Heart of the Community Project Workers

Kaz has been attending sessions of the Community Tree and their craft sessions since they started. Although previously a resident of Canklow, Kaz hasn’t lived on the estate for many years. Kaz finds the sessions very beneficial and currently travels from the Kimberworth Park area to attend the group. This means relying on 2 different bus services as there are no direct routes from one estate to the other.

“I’m like a homing pigeon…. a homing pigeon always returns home…. Even though I don’t live here anymore, I still come back.”

Kaz loves to be involved in all manners of activities and will regularly seek out new groups to keep herself busy.

“This group is great! It has given me the opportunity to learn new things and meet new people, even the kids join in when they’re here!!”

“We get to swap tips and ideas, we even swap materials so that we can complete our own projects!”

Kaz has a diagnosis of Parkinsons which affects not only her movement and mobility but also has an impact on her mental health. The sessions impacted Kaz positively through meeting new people with similar interests or speaking with others in a safe environment.

“I like Arts and crafts and everything…. I can do everything, just slower…. I always say got to have the bad to enjoy the good.”

“My diagnosis of Parkinsons can be detrimental to all aspects of what I do, but I have found everyone in this group to be so supportive and accepting…… I love it. All walks of life come to the group and its nice to mix with others.”

“The group helps with my mental health…. By coming to the group, I find that it perks me up and lifts me up…… “

Kaz intends to keep coming to the group as long as she can, she thinks it’s important not just for her but for everyone. She’d like to see the group widen their offer by offering a bit more variety in their activities.

“Games, like board games, or a book club. We could have someone in, once a month, to lead sessions on something new.

Something for the kids on the estate would be good……… and possibly a disabled group to support those people.”

The group are listening to suggestions coming from their community and intend on looking at different ways to expand. They also plan to work with partners locally to offer cost of living support and energy saving tips.

Swinburne Neighbourhood Centre

By Rob Gooding, Community Engagement Officer

In December the Swinburne social club took the difficult decision to close down due to dwindling numbers at sessions, this left a huge void in the resident’s life after over 5 years of group sessions.

 It was at this point that a small group of residents and ex committee members unhappy with the groups decision to close decided to take the lead and start a new resident’s group in the centre, the group aims to host coffee mornings, and games sessions for residents to enjoy.

The New Swinburne Neighbourhood group supported by RotherFed staff became constituted on 18/1/2024 and are now applying for a bank account and are looking into funding options ready to expand on the sessions they are already running.

Currently residents can enjoy 4 sessions a week the group meet for coffee and a chat. All the sessions are based in Swinburne Neighbourhood Centre and are held at the same times as the previous group to keep the consistency of the previous years.

Open Arms

By Lee Lazenby, Community Engagement Officer

Lee met Gina at the Open Arms Hub in Wath during the later part of a recent session. Clearly distressed and anxious, she reached out for assistance. Gina shared a little about her past including a recent downturn in her life. Offering her refreshments, Lee took the time to engage in conversation, discovering that Gina was living with mental health challenges and profound loneliness even following interventions by social services. Expressing difficulty in contacting her care worker, Gina poured out her concerns about financial struggles, including the inability to top up energy meters or purchase food ‘due to a recent betrayal by a so-called friend’. As the discussion unfolded, Gina’s emotions overwhelmed, calming her down, Lee escorted her outside for some fresh air, it was during this time that Gina opened up about her traumatic life experiences. Lee remained focused on providing support. Coincidentally, Lee had earlier noticed a support group relevant to Gina’s condition on the library noticeboard. Retrieving the information, she handed her the leaflet, Gina smiled and that reassured Lee that she might find comfort in this support network. Lee then contacted the Making Our Money Go Further (MMOMGF) team regarding assistance and arranged a food parcel. Concerned about Gina’s well-being, Lee also discussed the situation with the RotherFed team.

Although Gina’s issues were quite out of control and Gina was in a high state of anxiousness, we were able to help and put some measures in place which no doubt will make a substantial difference.  Gina was in a much better state when she left then when she arrived, we provided her with a Winter Warm Pack which she was thrilled with.

Later, Gina reached out via text, apologising for the delay in contacting us due to phone credit issues. She had reunited with family temporarily and receiving meals from them. She expressed gratitude for the assistance provided and acknowledging the time and effort spent addressing her issues, Gina conveyed her appreciation for us going above and beyond. She apologised for her behaviour in session, explaining the overwhelming nature of her struggles, including recovering from pneumonia had caused her great distress and she felt that nobody was willing to help. She was so glad she entered the library that day and is grateful to Lee and the team who didn’t just dismiss her with a leaflet.  Lee didn’t leave it there and went on to arrange a conversation with the Rotherham Council digital team to see if they could help her with a Data Sim and also checked in to see if the help was coming through. Gina was thankful and once again thanked everyone for their kind support. 

More Energy Know How

By Sharon Smith, Community Energy Advisor

Sharon was initially contacted by the lady’s mother-in-law in September 2023. She was concerned about the accuracy of the meter at Luca’s property as she had been maintaining her bills, was very careful with her energy usage and had received bills that did not appear to make any sense. Despite raising this issue with the energy supplier and questioning the reliability of the meter, the matter had still not been resolved.

As this appeared to be something that required more investigation, Sharon agreed to meet with them at a local library. They were asked to bring along current meter readings and have access to the online account.

After looking at the bills online, it was clear that there were lots of questions to ask of Utility Warehouse, so Sharon offered to help prepare a letter of complaint.

The original complaint was submitted to Utility Warehouse via the CEO which listed many questions and observations in relation to the account and mainly why it took 7 months to find smart meter readings and why all previous bills were cancelled and re-issued after such a time resulting in a debt of almost £800. The readings being displayed on the meter did not reflect those being stated by Utility Warehouse.

Several emails were exchanged, and the meter replaced, but the original not tested for any faults. Initially £200 compensation was offered to the family which would be used to offset the arrears… – this was not acceptable as there was no mention of whether the meter was being tested for accuracy, so they declined the offer.

After highlighting the failures of their billing system and the photographic evidence that the meter was displaying a totally different reading to that which was being sent to the energy provider, an acceptable offer was suggested to Utility Warehouse which they agreed to: –

–  Cancellation of the whole outstanding balance

– Cancellation of the bill for September @ £130

– £200 compensation for inconvenience

– £150 warm home discount added as credit on the cleared account rather than being previously used to reduce debt

– Agreement to replace smart gas meter to one that will work with up-to-date systems and ensure that no further estimated bills are produced.

This was a fair offer that the family were very pleased with and were very thankful for Sharon’s intervention and support in resolving the matter.

Open Arms

By Lee Lazenby, Community Engagement Officer

Jack called Greasbrough Library to inform them he was enroute to the Open Arms session, he was using his own means of transportation. Although the session was set to conclude in about 20 minutes, Lee, understanding Jack’s proximity and self-reliance, agreed to wait for his arrival. Jack unbeknown to us was navigating a dismal, damp afternoon on a pushbike, arriving soaked and famished. He apologised for his delay he was anxious, Lee offered him tea and biscuits then listened to his story.

Jack slowly became more at ease and started sharing his story. A military veteran forced to relinquish his private rented accommodation, he now resided in shared housing, leaving his belongings in storage. The spoke of his separation from family and the prolonged absence from his child, breaking down in tears as he conveyed feelings of loneliness, isolation, and hunger since departing the Armed Forces. Furthermore, he revealed ongoing struggles with mental health issues and disabilities.

With the assistance of the Making Our Money Go Further Team, a food parcel and additional support from the project was arranged to tide Jack over until he received funds, which were a week away. Lee informed him about Claire from “Walking with The Wounded” and pledged to contact her for potential support. Additionally, Jack was made aware of The Military Community Veterans Centre and upcoming local meetups that could provide valuable connections. Lee suggested attending for a cuppa, chat, and a possible free breakfast, emphasising the supportive network available.

Thankfully, Jack left in a much-improved state, expressing gratitude for the care and assistance received. Lee hoped that by connecting with others in similar situations, Jack would regain control. Before departing, he was informed about the nearest Open Arms venue for future assistance.

Tenant Involvement

In the heart of the Aughton community, Windy Ridge group recently decorated up their centre ready to host to their second annual Christmas Carol Service working with Rotherham Council Neighbourhoods staff, RotherFed and the local infant school. The service was held on the 11th of December at the Windy Ridge Neighbourhood Centre Aughton, the event successfully brought together residents both young and old for a day of festive merriment in the run up to Christmas.

The 12 strong group of Residents accompanied by local Cllr’s and RotherFed staff gathered in the Neighbourhood Centre ready to hear 30 of the local infant school’s children to sing festive hymns and traditional carols to the group that they planned to perform in their Christmas concert, followed by a buffet lunch for both the residents and children.

The group provided the children with small bags of sweets as a thank you for the service and a selection box each provided by RotherFed staff as a thank you for the entertainment provided. The group are already starting to plan next year’s event and hoping to make it even bigger than the last two years.

Swinton and Kilnhurst Santa’s Grotto

December was a busy month with Santa visits in the Swinton and Kilnhurst Ward.  Santa gave out free selection boxes to every child who attended.

This was the first grotto held and was at the Kilnhurst Resource Centre on the 10 December, this was funded by Rotherham Council/Local Councillors.  The grotto ran from 3.30pm until 5.30pm and over 70 children visited Santa in his Grotto.  Children received a selection box to take home and could have their face painted too.  It was a successful event and all the children enjoyed meeting Santa and his Elf.

The second Christmas Grotto took place on Wednesday 13 December at Fitzwilliam Estate and over 60 children visited Santa and received a selection box and could have their face painted, this was funded through Rotherham Council/Local Councillors.  We are currently working with Fitzwilliam Estate TARA who held a Christmas tombola at the Grotto, the funds raised will go back into the group to enable them to put on future events. The TARA also held a best dressed Christmas window competition, this group continues to strive to attract more residents on the estate.

The final Grotto was held on Wednesday 20 December at St Margarets Church.  This was organised through Swinton Community Focus Group.

Dalton Community Group

by Dan Barron and Sam Dixon, Heart of the Community Project Workers

A plethora of groups have been very busy this December with their festive celebratory activities and events. So, prepare for another Heart of the Community Christmas special good news bonanza.

Dalton Community Group (DCG) created a Christmas lunch for residents free of charge with funding they had received in previous months. The committee hosted this without support and did a fantastic job, all credit goes to those involved. The table was as long as the parish hall and filled with 30 residents from the community. The Christmas songs were loud and freshly cooked chippy lunches were handed out to everyone and enjoyed by all. There were many conversations flowing around the table about Christmas plans. This is an event that represents what DCG are all about; bringing people together to have a good time because they love to do it and always have. The group have been supporting coffee mornings at the Dalton Parish Hall on the 3rd Thursday of every month and will carry on doing these in the new year.