CCS (Community Council for Somerset) is helping to launch a new Good Neighbours scheme in Bishops Lydeard and surrounding villages. The scheme is intended to partner willing volunteers and helpers with anyone needing support with small one-off tasks, such as lifts to medical appointments, dog walks, or even simply sharing a cup of tea and a friendly chat. The aim is to bring people together and help build strong relationships and connections within local communities so that they can support each other in a neighbourly way.
In February this year, CCS Village Agent Christine Brewer started looking into starting a group around Bishops Lydeard, an area that encompasses several rural parishes where there is limited access to public services and which could, therefore, benefit from an organised group of volunteers. These volunteers could provide transport to hospital and doctor appointments, collect medications, take people shopping, provide company for lonely and isolated people and generally create a neighbourhood where everyone has access to and can be part of supporting the community.
In March, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and plans had to take a back seat while the focus for CCS Village Agents was very much on supporting towns and villages in Somerset to overcome the obstacles of forced isolation during lockdown. The volunteers who turned out in their hundreds to support Somerset have been a lifeline for Somerset’s communities. Now we are moving into a new stage where shops, businesses and schools are reopening and some of those volunteers are going back to work, so it’s time to focus again on Good Neighbours schemes.
With the help of a grant from CCS, the Bishops Lydeard and District Good Neighbours has been launched. The grant has so far paid for liability insurance and a mobile phone for use by coordinators who will be receiving any calls for help. Somerset charity Spark is helping with volunteers’ DBS security checks, which has resulted in a considerable reduction in costs. The service users will not be charged for the help provided, but donations are welcomed and these would then be used to help with volunteers’ costs such as fuel costs for taking people in need to essential appointments.
CCS Village Agent Christine Brewer says:
“We are delighted to be able to offer this scheme in the Bishops Lydeard area and we have been very lucky that we already have some wonderful volunteers. CCS is working towards setting up more Good Neighbours schemes in the Taunton area with the aim of building a network of schemes across the county of Somerset. These groups will help those in our communities who need help to access services or feel isolated and lonely. They will make a huge difference to vulnerable people’s lives.”
Keeley Rudd, CCS Chief Executive, says:
“This new Good Neighbours scheme will help to improve neighbourly spirit and reduce loneliness and isolation by building strong social networks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, support for vulnerable people in our communities is needed now, more than ever before. If any community in Somerset is interested in setting up a Good Neighbours scheme, please contact CCS at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01823 331 222. We look forward to hearing from you.”