Have your say on the Council Housing Strategy Consultation

Rotherham Council has been delivering against the commitments in its Housing Strategy for 2019-22, now the Housing Strategy is being refreshed to set out the key priorities for 2022-25, and Rotherham Council are asking for your help in shaping this.

Please complete the electronic survey by 21st January 2022.

Elizabeth Parkin TARA

Elizabeth Parkin TARA have gone from strength to strength since they were formed just over a year ago, the group are all residents of the bungalows that surround the centre that came together when lock down was lifted to create the group and host coffee mornings every two weeks, this soon evolved and the group started bingo sessions two days a week, had taster sessions of arts and crafts as well as chair exercise. The chair exercise sessions are designed to help the group with balance and general health while being a fun activity that all participants enjoy.

Over the year the group have become constituted, successfully applied for a bank account this has allowed the group to hold one off events like the jubilee party and their Christmas party both events being well attended by residents.

These sessions were so successful and enjoyed by the group that the group decided they would like to extend the chair exercise classes beyond the trial sessions, working with the group, Nick Harding and ward Cllr’s the group wanted to apply for ward funding to pay for these sessions, I’m pleased to say the group were successful in gaining the funding for this and the new exercise sessions begin on the 9th February and the group are currently looking at working with the collage to have the craft sessions re start in the next few months

Friendship Call Participant – Terry

Terry has been on the befriending call service for almost 18 months. His wife passed away in April and since then he has really been struggling to get out and keep active.

He told his volunteer that he goes to church and one of the congregation there has set him a challenge to help with his mobility and fitness, he has found himself stuck in a bit of a rut! The volunteer now checks in regularly to see how he is doing with the challenge! The challenge was to try and go for a little walk each day, every day increase the number of houses he walks past before turning back. Terry started with 2 houses, then 4, then 6 and so on. He is proud as punch and is very keen to inform his volunteer of his progress, so much so that his volunteer has now joined the challenge and is updating Terry on her progress each week, they have a mini competition going on. Terry started walking by going past just 2 houses, he can now do almost 40 and has said that if he gets to 50, he will be able to get to his local post office for his daily paper, he has set himself a challenge to do that as it will give him a chance to speak to someone every day whilst out.

Terry’s normal volunteer has been unwell, so his calls have been covered by a new volunteer, they both have strong accents, and it turns out they both originate from the same village in Kent. It just shows what a small world it is. They have been able to reminisce together despite the 50-year age gap, they  often spend up to an hour on the phone. It goes to prove that find the common ground and strong friendships are formed, again a testament to our wonderful volunteers.

Heart of the Community – The Community Tree

The Community Tree decided they wanted to do something at Christmas for the older residents in Canklow. They wanted to create something for local people to come together to help support others at Christmas during a cost of living crisis. “We understand how Christmas time can be one of the most isolating times of the year, we want to help remind our community that we are here for them and that residents have somewhere to turn to in times of need.”

The group created the “Blessing Box” project. The goods in the boxes were put together from donations from residents, local businesses, and partners. Funds were also raised to fill the boxes with essentials by members of the Community Tree attending a Christmas Fayre and by a successful bid for funding from elected members. Canklow Woods Primary School also engaged with the project with some of their young people making decorations and writing cards that got included with the boxes.

The residents who received the boxes had been identified by their friends, relatives or other residents who live in Canklow. The group put a post out through their social media asking for people to “Nominate a Neighbour” and received responses from their Facebook page and email. The nominations had to be for a person who lives in Canklow and are over the age of 65.

The boxes were delivered to 21 residents by Father Christmas and his team of elves in time for the Christmas celebrations to begin.

The feedback the group received was fantastic!! An incredible achievement for the community!!

Greasbrough Library

The Making Our Money Go Further (MOMGF) team attended a Coffee event at a library. We had a person come in who had broken down in front of us when they told us their money problem. We took them into a private room and the person told us they were on Universal credit which was their only income. They were a carer for their partner (a heart patient) who did not have UK citizenship who therefore could not claim other benefits such as PIP. The Energy bill was more than their universal credit income. The person was very worried and emotional. The person said they lived with their partner in their child’s house who pays the mortgage from their part time job. Their child is a student who helps them as much as possible being a student themself.

The MOMGF team took their details so that Citizens Advice could contact them within 48 hours, which the person was glad to hear. There was a little language barrier as the person was not fluent in English as it wasn’t their first language, so a note was made of this when referring to Citizens Advice. They also made the person aware of a foodbank near their home which may help a little in saving.

They also asked our colleagues from Energy Know How for their expertise. They also helped with a Winter Warm Pack and will have Green Doctor to come out and insulate their home for them.

Person had set out to walk 4 miles from the library back to their home.

Her bill was partly estimated (electricity). Her gas was accurate as readings were taken from her smart meter and her bill totalled £221.00 to pay which was scheduled to be taken by direct debit at the end of the month. She stated that she could not afford to pay this.

As she had was being referred to Citizens Advice by the money team for in depth support with her financial situation, they would include utility bills in their advice. We discussed with her how to check her meter readings and compare these to her bill to check whether the bill had been over-estimated.

She stated she used a lot of gas to keep her husband warm due to his heart issues. We discussed the possibility of turning the heating down slightly, putting it on one hour later or turning it off one hour later. She was worried about her husband getting cold, so we gave her two winter warmth packs containing blankets, gloves, hats, snoods, socks and soup and mugs.

We also discussed whether her home was draughty, and she said it was. We offered her a visit from the green doctors who are able to install draught proofing measures around doors and windows, fit radiator foils to help make her heating more efficient and also supply and fit up to 10 led lightbulbs which would help with her energy consumption. She was very appreciative of this offer and a referral was made for the works to be undertaken.

This example shows how much people are in need and how services such as ours help to give them a little boost and guide them to other services they may benefit from.

Friendship Call Participant – Gwen

Gwen started with the project in June 2022 in January 2023 she has now decided that she no longer needs the support of a weekly call. This is testament to her volunteer who has helped give her the confidence to get out and live life again. Gwen has spoken to the same volunteer since she started as they clicked straight away. Gwen’s husband and her best friend both passed away within a year of each other and this really effected Gwen’s mental health and her self-confidence.

At the start of the calls the conversations were very one sided with Fiona her volunteer thinking perhaps the calls weren’t the correct service for Gwen. After a few weeks Gwen started to open up about things that had happened and how much it had affected her. As the calls progressed Gwen was able to realise that life could carry on even though her husband had passed away, and that she needed to make the most of what life she had left. Gwen decided to purchase a caravan at the coast in Lincolnshire and goes to visit it each weekend, she also now goes out most days and mixes with a wide range of people. She has stopped using the service because she felt like she no longer needed the support and felt that other people could benefit from the service that had helped her so much. She also added that her and Fiona weren’t just recipient and volunteer, but they felt like friends for life, and this helped give her the confidence to live life to the full again.

Casting Innovations

Throughout the cost-of-living crisis everyone is now enduring higher costs throughout the country. Casting Innovations is a social enterprise based in Canklow, their remit is to use recycled properties to create pieces of art.

“We offer a fun casual creative space to learn new forms of craft. We have a regular attendance of residents visiting Casting Innovations to learn Polymer clay crafting, painting, mould casting, sewing, and crocheting. Promoting education around recycling, discovery of crafts and creating an outlet for positive mental health are core of everything we do.”

“We have up to 12 volunteers who support us to deliver our services by: helping with casting moulds, maintaining the property, and helping our visitors, crafters, Canklow’s community projects. We are heavily reliant on the volunteers who support Casting Innovations to deliver our services.”

Casting Innovations was forced to reduce its community engagement offering to 3 days out of 5 due to raising running costs. We worked with Lee to create a CLF funding application that would support them to upgrade their lighting and reduce their bills. Lee’s applications was successful, and he managed to secure funding to replace the lights.

“The impact that the lights had are immediate and estimates that the bulbs will save the social enterprise £500 per year. Although the venue won’t be able to open straight away this has brought our plans forward to be able to do so. The funding will also benefit our workshops as the energy efficient lighting has been selected specifically for the workstations so residents can work in an effective environment. It also supports our long-term aim to become a green organisation.”

The instalments also means that the venue now requires less bulbs due to the modern LED technology have higher lumens and a smaller energy output. Lee has expressed that it has taken some of financial pressure off their shoulders. It means that we don’t have to worry about bills and relieves a stress on the organization which can focus on engaging with the community.

Mature Millers Group

Energy Know How received a call from Derek (group organiser) at the end of October 2022. He had been speaking to someone he knows that had attended (or had connections to) the dementia cafes in Rotherham. They had mentioned that we had given information about energy help schemes and access to free draught proofing and he wanted to know if it was possible to talk to his group of pensioners who were all football fans.

He explained they meet on Mondays at Brentwood hotel to discuss the weeks football, and that there are around 25 of them. Derek suggested talking to the group as a whole which I agreed to but then offered to go around afterwards to check whether anyone had any questions they did not want to ask in front of everyone. Sharon agreed they would attend on 7th November.

Noor and Sharon attended. After the group had discussed the weeks games and analysed their team’s performance, they joined them. They explained the help schemes that are currently available to help people with the current energy crisis, they discussed ways to save energy including having smart meters and energy saving tips. They also explained about the greendoctor service.

The group were very engaging and asked lots of questions, this was the most in-depth and engaging group that they had visited so far and almost everyone had something to add or a question to ask. It was fantastic to have such detailed conversations with a group of gentlemen who would ordinarily have only discussed football.

Several of the attendees requested visits from the greendoctor service for draught proofing measures and all attendees were offered a print of the help schemes to take away for reference or to share with friends and family.

Peregrine Way TARA Gardening Group

Over the last year the group have formed a small gardening group that maintain the communal garden at Peregrine Way Neighbourhood Centre, Through the summer the group have worked to bring the space back to life, installing new fence panels, rebuilding the raised beds, and planting a wide range of new plants, but this isn’t the end of the groups plans for the space. The group took part in the Harthill Garden trail through the summer, to highlight their hard work

The group decided they would enhance the garden by getting a greenhouse so they can grow their own plants for the centres many pots and raised beds this will also allow them to enjoy the garden in the colder months while still making the centre brighter and more inviting to residents. The group held a Christmas Fair this month with craft stalls and raffles that have raised the money they needed for the greenhouse and are now looking forward to it being installed early next year ready to start growing next year’s plants.

Not wanting to stop there, the group applied for funding for a memorial bench to commemorate lost members this is intended to be a quiet space where the group will be planting bright flowers all year round, I’m pleased to say they were successful in this and the benches have now been installed and the future is looking sunny for the group moving into the new year.

Friendship Call Participant – Olivia

Oliva has only been receiving the befriending calls for two months, she originally started them as she moved from the London area to Rotherham to live with her partner. She left all of her family and friends and the move really affected her social life and this made her feel very lonely with only her partner to talk to.

She has spoken to the same volunteer who is about the same age and had a very similar experience with moving a long distance away from family and friends. Their conversations have included ways that the volunteer made friends and encouraged Olivia to get out of her comfort zone a bit to meet new people.

Fiona her volunteer suggested some craft groups in the area and exercise classes, Olivia has recently joined 2 different dance groups and is looking at joining the crafting groups after the new year, Olivia has said that she never would have found the courage to join the groups without Fiona’s encouragement.

Heart of the Community Volunteer Event

One of the main outcomes for the first year of Heart of the Community was to record the communities’ little acts of kindness. We have pledge cards that we ask community members to fill out telling us about something they have done or are going to do to help others in their neighbourhoods. From the small act like telling a neighbour when the bins go out to Volunteering for local community groups, it all counts.

We have found the Roadshows to be a good engagement tool to get people talking and thinking about the positive things that are happening locally. Our experience has been that generally people don’t think about the small things they do for others and the positive impact it has.

When out on our Roadshows we always said that we would hold an event to celebrate the small acts of kindness in the community and give back to those who are supporting their community. We held the volunteer’s celebration event on the 8th of December and invited all the people who had engaged with the heart of the community project. For the event we had created a slideshow of pledge cards to show examples of all of the different acts of kindness had people do every day. We also created a display board on the wall of the hall for everyone to have a look at.
The event saw 25 people attend the event. We provided a buffet and refreshments for our volunteers and had Christmas songs playing to get everyone into the Christmas spirit and have a sing along.

We drew a raffle on the day with 2 winners. The first was a £50 voucher of their choice for those who had left us a contact detail on a pledge card and a £20 voucher of their choice for anyone attending on the day. Additionally, Rotherfed’s Volunteers for friendship calls held a prize draw for a huge Christmas hamper filled essential food supplies and a few treats.

Winners of raffles on the day were Thomas, Rhea B and Donna (Friendship Calls Hamper prize)

The event was well received by the volunteers

“it’s been lovely today; I’ve really enjoyed it”

“I think it’s a nice gesture”