Open Arms

By the Open Arms Team

Originally, Samuel had come along to Dalton to enquire about renting the Parish Hall for his nephew’s upcoming birthday party. However, there was no staff on duty that day and instead of turning him away, the Open Arms team invited him inside and offered a comforting hot drink.

Once Samuel settled in, the Open Arms team spoke to him about the project and the help available. It turned out that Samuel had a range of concerns and issues for which he was seeking guidance. Samuel, along with his wife and children, had recently made a significant move from London to Rotherham, primarily due to family ties in the area. Their transition to a new life had proven challenging, with struggles related to mental health and isolation becoming apparent.

During their conversation, Samuel opened up about a variety of pressing matters that had been weighing on his mind. These included concerns about water & energy prices, for which Morgan the Citizen Advice Rotherham & District Energy Advisor helped him with.

Samuel had been trying to find an NHS dentist led to a referral to Rotherham Health Watch, which could offer guidance in finding suitable dental care. The conversation also turned towards improving his mental health, with a list of local social groups provided to help him and his wife connect with others in their new community.

As the discussion unfolded, it became evident that Samuel was facing housing issues related to his last flat based in London. The team suggested that he reach out to the Citizen Advice housing team for expert assistance.

The encounter at Dalton Parish Hall Open Arms was a testament to the power of community support and the positive impact it can have on individuals facing various challenges in life. Samuel’s visit, initially driven by a simple enquiry, turned into a moment of compassion and empowerment that could help him navigate the complexities of his new chapter in Rotherham.

S62 Community Together Rotherham

By the Making Our Money Go Further team

Luke Brailswood set up the S62 Community Together Rotherham (Men’s Mental Health Group) Men’s Mental Health 4 years ago. He describes himself as a person who feels fulfilled in helping people.  When he came across a lady who had lost her son to poor mental health leading to his death, he realised he had to help. He decided to set up a group that was solely for men who could find a safe space in talking about their feelings and problems instead of bottling them up and not sharing. Luke believes groups like this prevent people getting into bad situations. It also helps people who have just come out of a bad situation which affected their mental health in order to keep their mental health on track.  He also feels the group relieves the NHS of some work due to the nature of the group being a prevention method for men wanting to harm themselves. It gives men a chance to not be lonely and form good friendships.

Luke said when he first set the group up in 2019, he would sit in a Costa every Thursday waiting for men to come and no one did until someone finally came after 3 months. Lukes’s determination has paid off as the group since grew and branched out with the help of RotherFed.  There is also a Women’s Supporting Women’s group on Thursdays. 

The group had a clear idea from the start about the sessions they wanted to do which they still deliver 3 years on. RotherFed started supporting the group more than 3 years ago and helped with a lot of emotional support, time, training, and networking opportunities.  Before the group had its general meeting, RotherFed helped them in finding a venue and helped the group get constituted so they were able to apply for their own funding direct which RotherFed helped them to apply for.  As well as this, RotherFed also helped fund them.

Credit has to be given to the founder members for identifying the need for this kind of support in their community and taking on the responsibility to deliver it. Their enthusiasm has led to more volunteers getting involved and offering their support to the group too.

This case study shows how people can deliver their vision with the help that is available from organisations such as RotherFed. 

Manvers Residents Association

By Rachel Cole, Senior Project Officer

Rachel first started to support the Manvers Residents Association, Wath group in Summer 2021, when they wanted to set up a resident’s association for their estate. The initially attended training through RotherFed and RMBC on how to set up a group, organising events, first aid and safeguarding, they then became constituted. The group originally wanted to set up to try and challenge Manvers Lake Trust about the annual fees all the residents are required to pay to help towards the upkeep of the lake. Whilst the group continue to raise funds to do this, they also now focus on making a difference in the community by putting on events/activities etc. The group have just held their 2nd Annual General Meeting. 

Over the past year, they have held an event for the King’s Coronation, they secured funding through RMBC to help towards this, they have held a community picnic, hold regular community litter picks throughout the estate, held a Christmas elf hunt, an Easter bunny hunt and have set up a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme which now has 168 members signed up to. Future plans, include raising money for the Royal British Legion with Manvers Poppy week, signage for the duck crossing, a community noticeboard, the group are working with RMBC to secure this. The group are also planning a Scarecrow festival in 2024. 

The group also produces a quarterly newsletter which is distributed via email on their Facebook page. 

This group has gone from strength to strength and are achieving so much for their community, they should be really proud. I will continue to support this group as and when required, however, they’re a very capable group and require little input from myself/others, which is fantastic. 

ARCH Community Champion Award

By Rob Gooding, Community Engagement Officer

RotherFed recently nominated Tasha, for the prestigious Arch (Association of retained council housing) Community Champion Award. This award recognizes the dedication, willingness, inspiration, and devotion that our tenants freely give to the community, and Tasha’s commitment to Rotherham made her the perfect candidate for this honour.

One of Tasha’s standout achievements has been her work with local youth. She started a youth football team with mentorship programs, workshops, and extracurricular activities that have positively impacted the lives of countless young people in Ferham, Tasha has started actively participating in tenant forums and meetings, Tasha aims to provide a voice for underrepresented tenants and help to influence policies and initiatives that can positively impact the wider area. Tasha takes first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by children and families in their community and articulates their needs and the needs of disabled people too.

I am pleased to announce that on the 14th of September 2023, Tasha was awarded an ARCH Community Champion award at the ARCH conference in Stevenage. Tasha said;

When I found out that I had been nominated for the Arch Community Champion Award 2023 it made me feel like I had been recognised and appreciated for all the work I do in the community.

I originally set up a community football club for youth in our area as I saw a need for a safe space with fun engaging activities to help the youth of the area thrive. In doing so, I very quickly realised the potential and need for so much more. The journey I have personally been on in the last few years has not been easy. It’s been stressful, exhausting but also very rewarding to see the impact that I have had on developing a “forgotten” and underprivileged part of Rotherham. One of the biggest supports I have had was from RotherFed who have been with me every step along the way and even having them nominate me for this award.

When I was told I had been shortlisted for one of the awards I was shocked. I know there are so many people out there who do fantastic things in the community but couldn’t quite believe that I had made it to the shortlist! When it came to awards time and my name was called out for the “Highly Commended Community Champion 2023”, I was astonished that it was really for me. Upon hearing what was read out in front of everyone about my journey and what I do and why I do it and going up to collect my award I felt so pleased that I had overcome everything I have done and created an amazing thing for so many people in our area. Being nominated for an award is one thing but being awarded it is another. I honestly never expected to even be nominated but I am so thankful to Rob (& Dan) at RotherFed for nominating me. It has made me feel so blessed to have been recognised, appreciated, and seen.

This has made me feel so much more confident in everything I do and has given me a mega boost to be able to go out there and try to achieve even more. I have joined on extra tenant panels, engaged more in different ways to get more tenants involved, linked up with more organisations to help get more changes made and generally want to achieve more in my everyday life as well as helping improve others’ lives too. Going forward I want to make it my goal to help create more community champions who want to make positive impacts for everyone to have a safe and welcoming community for everyone to learn and grow together.

Thank you so much RotherFed. I really appreciate it and hope it shows other people just what they can achieve if they set their minds to it, just like I always teach the children (and parents/families) who come to my football club

Uniform Swop

Neelam Rhuksar, Project Officer

Over the summer months MOMGF have collected school uniforms in Canklow and organised a couple of days of swapping, the incentive behind this is to work in partnership with families and ease the burden and stress that can be caused when having to provide uniforms every term.

We are hoping this will have an all-round benefit for the Canklow schools’ community, there are several benefits to uniform swap whether that be saving money to recycling and helping the environment. People have been extremely generous in donating and swapping uniforms, some families are struggling with increasing costs and in some circumstances find it difficult to provide new uniforms, with this project families have had the opportunity to source uniforms, re use uniforms and support the community.

2/08/23 – Neelam attended Canklow Pavilion today to be there for any uniform donations. We had 2 big bag full dropped off, which gave a good head start for Uniforms to be available on the day. The Uniforms were clean and usable which were requested on the leaflets which were given to the local primary school in Canklow.

03/08/23 – Neelam along with Julie did leaflet drops to the local businesses in Canklow. They managed to get 6 different places to keep leaflets one including KFC which was an accomplishment in itself as they were allowed to be displayed right on the counter beside the menu.

15/08/23 – Neelam went and picked up uniforms from houses in Canklow who had called for their uniforms to be collected. There were collections done from 3 houses. It gave us a lot more uniform to start the Uniform swap with tomorrow. They also had donations of coats and other school supplies which was also very helpful.

16/08/23 – For the Uniform Swap they engaged with around 20 people and managed to help a few people for their kids’ uniforms. One lady was very chuffed and said she had ‘saved a fortune because of this’ and was happy with the condition of the clothes.

There were a lot of donations, so another uniform swap was held on the 30th of August which helped another 12 families.

Feedback from the swap was very positive, families have felt empowered by being part of a community project and have asked them to return in October half term.

Open Arms

Janet Malsch, Community Engagement Officer

*Tina has consistently participated in our Springwell Gardens – Community Get Together Sessions over the course of the summer break, along with her three children and her mother. During her initial attendance, Tina primarily focused on caring for her children and engaging in the various activities provided. It was during this first session that Janet had an opportunity to engage with her, providing refreshments for her family while also imparting information about our services.

As the summer progressed and the second Community Get Together took place, Tina actively engaged with Janet again. During their conversation, Tina shared insights into her domestic life and the challenges of keeping her children entertained during the extended holiday period. Janet was able to offer advice on accessing free activities and events in the Rotherham area.

At the recent Teddy Bear Picnic session, Tina once again attended, where Janet caught up with her. Tina had used some of the information provided last time and been on inexpensive days out with her family, which they had all enjoyed.

The conversation got round to money worries, and budgeting for birthdays & Christmas on top of all the regular bills to pay. They discussed the Loan and Savings opportunities offered by Laser Credit Union, which Tina found useful, and something she will consider in the run up to Christmas.

*name changed.

Friends of Henley Kids Club

By Dan Barron & Sam Dixon, Heart of the Community Project Workers

Henley is an area within Rotherham that, like many others, has a lack of assets and local resources. The community around the centre at Oates close is primarily a mixture of older people in bungalows and families. Friends of Henley has been created to provide a safe and constructive environment for children and their families in a community that has to overcome many social and economic issues. 

Led by their community volunteer Jo, they turned the long drag of the six weeks holidays into a summer that helped to provide respite for parents and strengthened the bonds of friendship for everyone. From painting to crafts to Lego there was something for everyone to be able to unleash their creative streak.

The children and their carers were overwhelmingly positive about the summer club. 

“I like it that there’s something local for the estate”

Parent

” It’s nice to all the kids together”

Parent

“It’s great to see something good happening in the community”

Parent

“We love crafts, and we don’t get to do it too much at home”

Child

“I’ve had fun coming in the holidays”

Child

Building on the success of the Oates Close Summer Club the group are going to continue to provide a provision for the children in the area with the introduction of the Friends of Henley Kids Club. This will be open to all local young people. The club will provide an opportunity for them to complete homework tasks with support from their peers and to kick back and join in with activities that will be facilitated by the groups volunteer leads.

Litter Pick and Teddy Bear Picnic

By Rachel Cole, Senior Projects Officer

Rachel is currently working with RMBC officers, and they are in the process of trying to set up a TARA on the Fitzwilliam Estate. They have held a couple of meetings where residents have attended and expressed their interested in getting involved and starting a group. It was agreed at the meeting in July to hold an event on the estate in the school holidays and it would be a litter pick followed by a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

The event took place on Tuesday 8 August and luckily the sun was shining. It started with a litter pick at 10am, children had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian and Mear’s contractors supplied the littering picking equipment. Over 15 children attended, and they all had a great time. We concentrated first on the park where the picnic would take place and then moved onto the estate. The litter pick was very successful with over 15 bags being collected. All children received a drink and some fruit for taking part.

Once the litter pick had finished, everyone went home to get their teddy bears and picnic. The picnic started at 12pm in the park. The group ran a tombola and a name the bear to raise funds for the group. The group collected prizes for the tombola, and Rachel purchased a Build the Bear for their name a bear. It was a fantastic event and a great turn out from the residents on the estate. Over £130 was raised from the tombola and name the bear, this money will be saved and used for future events. The next event will be pumpkin painting week commencing 25 October, it is hoped that FLUX will work with the group on this to provide the paints etc. RMBC are also running a grotto on the estate for the families, this will be on Wednesday 13 December, the group have agreed to hold a tombola at this.

It has been a long time since there was a TARA on this estate, therefore, we are really pleased to see the progress and hope that it continues. Rachel will continue to support the group until they are established.

Open Arms

During the summer months we are hosting ‘Community Get Togethers’ at our 5 non-library venues on a fortnightly basis. We will deliver 30 sessions between July and September 2023, in July we delivered 6 of these sessions.

On the 31st of July we held our first family fun day as part of the Community Get Togethers, this was held at Dalton Parish Hall. An overwhelming success seeing 50 adults and children accessing the free event.

We were able to add additional attractions to the event such as an inflatable Nerf Target Range and Giant Connect 4. Participants being able to enjoy a selection of crafts. We also had refreshments and treats (including candy floss and sweets) The Open Arms team will be on hand at all events for support and advice. This event is free to all and will be replicated across all venues.  

Activities at our first event “All the fun of the fair” included –

  • Giant Connect 4
  • Inflatable Nerf Target Range
  • Giant Snakes and Ladders
  • Rock Painting
  • Colouring sheets
  • Giant Jenga
  • Tin Can Knock Down
  • Hook a Duck (with prizes)

Tenant Involvement

As part of our work with Tenant Involvement we identified a gap in feedback and engagement from young tenants, specifically those becoming tenants for the first time, we approached Rush House and Roundabout to ask if we could run some sessions with their residents.

We agreed to run these at Rush House over lunchtimes and provide food (pizza). We have now been running these since April 2023 on a six-week basis. On average around 10 people attend a session. It is not always the same people who attend. The people who attend these sessions are at different stages of their journey in becoming tenants; some already registered with key choices ready to bid on properties while others aren’t yet ready to begin this process. All residents are supported by the teams at Rush House & Roundabout, who also attend the sessions with them.

Our approach has been to keep the sessions relaxed and informal to help build trust and allow us to open up conversations with the residents around living on their own and becoming tenants. This has resulted in some insightful discussions and feedback.

Feedback from sessions:

TopicFeedbackSuggestion
Tenancy information & expectationsWhile there is good information about applying to be a tenant there is limited information about things like timescales involved, what they can expect a property to contain, the standard it is kitted out to.Residents are often going from places with new white goods and decorated nicely to something they feel is a step down, so it’s about managing their expectations
Bidding processThey can sometimes feel overwhelmed by how quickly they must decide on a property with the limited information providedAdditional support available to those that may need it. Longer time allowed to decide.
Perceptions of council homesSome resident’s families are/have been council tenants so they can have a negative opinion of being a tenant; homes are not in good repair, they all look the same, they are in under resourced areas …Visits to council properties & TARAs
Tenancy AQA qualificationAs part of their pre-tenancy support residents complete this training. They are very positive about how helpful this has been and feel more confident about living alone without the support they currently receive. A lot of them talked about the bin information and how it has helped them to recycle more.This training is available for others to complete too

Rush House and Roundabout residents and staff are happy for us to continue to run these regular sessions and to gain some more insights, with a view overtime to creating a young tenant forum / group hopefully with some tenant reps emerging.