Small Charity week is a chance for us to celebrate those small local charities making a difference to their communities.
Having spent some of my childhood living in a rural Gloucestershire village, I thought it would be a great opportunity to promote one charity that is helping those who feel isolated, lonely and in much need of support in the region: Cotswold Friends.
Living in a village of around 200 residents, the majority of whom were over 65, meant I experienced first-hand how valuable a close community and support network means to those in the area, particularly those who are elderly and vulnerable. Against a backdrop of decreased local public transport[i], social isolation[ii] and the largest proportion of people aged 65+ in the county[iii], there is an increasing need for the services that Cotswold Friends provide.
I got the opportunity to ask Cotswold Friends CEO, Amanda Howard, a few questions about what impact the charity has on its beneficiaries.
Tell us more about your charity
Cotswold Friends is a charity based in Moreton-in-Marsh, which provides four community services supported by over 350 volunteers to over 2,000 older and vulnerable members of the North Cotswolds community (64 rural hamlets and villages and 5 market towns).
Our community services are:
- Community Transport – 9,000 journeys a year for 1,200 registered members, of which 62% support a medical need.
- Community Activities Programme – 20 activities across the area (Men in Sheds, Walking Football, Walking Netball, Gentle Walking groups, Craft and Chat, Community Singing and an extensive Lunch Club Programme in pubs, cafes, village halls and a school. 660 people attend activities a month, often supported by the Community Transport Service.
- Befriending – supports 120 older and vulnerable, mainly house-bound people, living alone with long-term conditions including dementia, respiratory and heart conditions, limited mobility, arthritis and older age frailty. Clients receive a weekly visit and support to attend quarterly community events.
- Carer Respite – 30 full-time carers receive weekly half-day respite allowing them to stay well themselves and continue in their caring roles. Clients receive invitations and support to attend quarterly community events.
All services are preventative, reduce loneliness and isolation and support independent living.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Matching volunteers to recipients and seeing their relationship and friendship thrive, with both parties being equally rewarded by the experience as well as seeing someone’s physical and mental health and wellbeing improved because they are supported by the charity.
What do you think the strengths of being a small charity are?
Knowing the community really well, understanding local issues and pressures and being able to offer proactive solutions.
What demands are there on your services?
Waiting lists and increasingly higher need referrals from GP’s, Social Prescribers, Community Agents and Gloucestershire Adult Services (such as health visitors, social workers and occupational therapists). There is a lack of resources in the North Cotswolds with a basic lack of some community services.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing small charities?
Funding. Lack of good management, marketing and governance skills including financial governance and strategic planning. Also, larger charities and organisations taking credit for the work of small charities and absorbing all the funding.
What advice do you have for other small charities both locally and nationally?
Share. Learn from each other, develop support networks and partnerships to maximise scarce professional resources and facilitate comprehensive funding bids. Don’t be frightened to fight your corner in a calm and professional way!
This is part of a series of blogs for Cause4 Opinion on Small Charities Week 2018 – let’s support them to fight the good fight!
What’s your favourite small charity? Let us know via @OfficialCause4.