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”
” It’s nice to all the kids together”
“It’s great to see something good happening in the community”
“We love crafts, and we don’t get to do it too much at home”
“I’ve had fun coming in the holidays”
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.
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.
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 –
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:
Tenancy information & expectations
While 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
They can sometimes feel overwhelmed by how quickly they must decide on a property with the limited information provided
Additional support available to those that may need it. Longer time allowed to decide.
Perceptions of council homes
Some 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 qualification
As 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.
Woodsetts Tara, a small community group, organized a memorable event for residents and visitors of the village. The group supported by Rotherfed decided they wanted to make it bigger and better than last year’s car rally and craft market. The day-long event named Woodfest featured a craft market, a classic car rally, a beer festival, and live music, the event attracted around 2,500 enthusiastic attendees despite the rain. The event was staffed by volunteers from all the community groups in the area.
The event, held on the village cricket pitch, showed the talent and creativity of local crafters. The craft market offered handmade goods and craft ideas as well as games and stalls form local groups, including the Neighbourhood watch and had a small fairground alongside archery and axe throwing for older participants.
Alongside the craft market, the group held a classic car rally featuring 60 Vintage vehicles, lovingly restored to their former glory, were proudly displayed for all to admire. The event provided a nostalgic trip down memory lane and allowed attendees to immerse themselves in the timeless charm of classic cars.
The beer festival offered a chance to sit and relax for a while away from the bustle of the craft market and the classic cars and enjoy a choice of 15 craft beers and ciders. The entertainment staged on the back of a lorry trailer, was supplied by bands some of which played at Glastonbury this year as well as local talent was joined by a Zumba session for the younger attendees.
Woodsetts TARA’s event drew an impressive crowd, with approximately 2,500 people joining the festivities throughout the day. The group would like to hold this event every year to continue to bring the community of Woodsetts together and build on the success of the last two events to bring an even bigger spectacular for next year. The event’s success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of all the members of the group.
Jane became known to the Making Our Money Go Further (MOMGF) project via a referral from a PCN link worker. The referral only had basic information about Jane and her situation and to see if we could support this lady in any way.
Contacting Jane, to obtain more information with regards to her referral was the first stage. Jane disclosed to us that her husband had died several months ago and has received a payment from DWP following his death. Jane told us that after several weeks of asking for support from many other agencies within the Rotherham area MOMGF was her last hope of finding a solution to her concern. Jane was querying what she thought was an over payment from DWP which she had received. This was for a very large amount of money. (This was also a difficult time for her after the death of her Husband)
Jane had received a large amount of money into her bank, but no letter from DWP to confirm the payment, or what payment was for, Jane needed more information and reassurance and felt she could not spend any of the money in case it was a wrong payment, and they would request for it back. On the day of the telephone conversion with Jane she was very concerned and had reservations about the payment and it was making her anxious. It was agreed that a referral would be made to citizens advice for a benefit check, which we did on the day of the phone call.
Citizen’s advice contacted Jane on the same day, a three-way telephone conversion was set up, between, Jane, Citizen’s advice and DWP. Jane was informed by DWP that the money was correct, and it was a back payment, which totally put Janes mind at rest. A telephone call was made to Jane from MOMGF for a follow up conversation to see if we had fully support her.
“MOMGF have helped me 100% nobody was helping me, I cannot thank you enough, you have been a great help, I was beginning to think nobody could help me, but you have, you have put my mind at rest, thank you”. Jane also stated, light heartedly, “I can now buy a new garden fence, to keep the dog in, although he won’t be happy, as he will not be able to escape”.
Madiya met a lady at the ESOL learning sessions held at the Unity Centre. This lady, who is a council tenant, comes quite regularly to these sessions and Madiya has built that rapport and trust with this person. The lady spoke to her about her daughter who is disabled, completely bed-bound who relies on oxygen machine assistance too. She explained that her daughter’s bedroom is downstairs in what was the living room, which is next to the kitchen. The only thing between the kitchen and the living room is a door. During Ramadan, one of the other children in the household was cooking something in the oven which ended up causing a small fire in the kitchen and caused a lot of smoke. She explained how worried she had been as had it been something more serious there was no fire exit for the disabled daughter. Madiya has helped the lady get in touch with the council to explain the issue and ask for their help to modify her home. She also had information from the fire brigade team to support any further construction to the property. The council have been very supportive and done everything in their power to help the household and have now constructed the whole front side of the property. They have put a fire exit door in the room where the daughter’s bed is located. They also cleared the front garden as there was a hazard with the large tree hanging over the property and the garden was uneven. They removed the tree and levelled the front garden so it’s easier for the bed to move around in case of an emergency. The lady was impressed with how fast the council have helped and how quickly they managed to put everything together. She was grateful for the support she was receiving from Madiya and RotherFed throughout this whole process and is very happy with the outcome of her property and thankful her daughter has that safety and security.
Lynn spoke to a lady whilst waiting for her foodbank shopping regarding any concerns she had regarding her energy. The lady lived with her young son in a private rented property. She was on a low income struggling to pay her energy bills and buy daily essential items. The lady confirmed that she had accrued £2,200 in electric arrears over the last 8 months and did not have sufficient income to repay this. The lady had a medical condition and had been declined Personal Independence Payment (PIP) 8 months ago after appealing the decision. The lady had completed all PIP forms and the mandatory reconsideration herself after declining support. They discussed the service our Money Matters team can offer through Citizens Advice, who will be able to provide support with debts and completing PIP forms. They can also look for any support that may be available through charities and trusts etc. They also discussed Green Doctors who can provide support with energy saving i.e., low level draught proofing around windows and doors, foils behind radiators, up to 10 energy saving lightbulbs etc. The lady was happy to refer to our Money Matters team with a follow up referral to Citizens Advice and a referral to Green Doctors. The lady took thermometers on the day. The lady confirmed that she has declined support in the past but was willing to accept the support offered by RotherFed. Lynn also confirmed that they have winter warm packs issued during the winter months and the lady confirmed that she will contact them or call at the foodbank should she feel the need to have one.
Open Arms sessions have been running at Springwell on a fortnightly basis since April 2023. We decided at quite short notice to hold an information session during the school holidays for families to come along to and find out more about the project. We arranged for Making Our Money Go Further to attend with us and they brought along a hamper of shopping to give away to the person who guessed how much it would cost. We also arranged for DB entertainment to provide some games and activities for families to enjoy and provided drinks and snacks too. Posters were put up in local businesses and publicised through social media platforms.
On the day, Thursday 1st June 2023, we got the main hall set up ready to greet our visitors, not sure how many to expect, but as soon as the doors opened, they were there!
The session was well attended by families who enjoyed the activities and food. From talking to some of them about the project a couple were referred into Citizens Advice by the money team and others said that planned to attend our regular drop-in sessions. Rob spoke to some residents who are interested in setting up a group to run from Springwell.
The session was also attended by Cllr Cooksey, PCSO’s and Jamie from Early Help so people had the opportunity to meet and chat with them too.
As part of the project volunteer community leaders receive training, help and support to be able to help their groups and communities around cost-of-living.
Our first volunteer training session was organised to be held in June at Springwell. We were joined by those interested in becoming community volunteers for Open Arms, to discuss the roles and what community volunteering entails. Other people expressed interest in attending the session too, but owing to other commitments were unable to attend. We therefore hope to run further sessions during the year. The session was fun and interactive with plenty of opportunity to discuss personal experiences of being a volunteer, or being helped by a volunteer, and what impact this support can have on people. We also covered information about the project and what it hopes to achieve, as well as sharing some stories of the people we have helped already.
We are looking forward to welcoming the volunteers at our sessions soon.