I have been challenged on my recent blog post on whether the newly set up Suffolk Circle is duplicating services already offered free of charge in Suffolk. In March Suffolk Circle are offering a range of interesting activities, including a guided walk, a visit to a film in Sudbury, a visit to West Stow Anglo Saxon village, going for a meal. All very commendable. Also members can purchase tokens which then allow them to get help with a range of activites. According to their website :
“Members can buy tokens at any time. These can be used to book a helper to get all sorts of things done, from practical tasks from like putting up curtain rails and gardening to learning something new like how to send a text message.”
The issue is whether such activities were already available in Suffolk, without Suffolk County Council having to spend out £3/4 million pounds in grant aid to this new social enterprise.
Below are some extracts from the Age UK and Suffolk ACRE websites on friendship groups and Good Neighbour schemes. (The Bury St. Edmunds Age UK friendship scheme charges £5 a year for membership, compared with £30 for Suffolk Circle) I will let the extracts below speak for themselves:
Age UK’s Friendship Centres are a great way to meet like-minded people in your area. Activities are organised by the groups themselves and may include lunches‚ holidays‚ outings‚ walking‚ bowling and much more. So do get in touch with your local group to find out more!
Suffolk ACRE is continuing to build a network of individual sustainable Good Neighbour Schemes around the county. There are currently 21 schemes up and running with many more under development. In each scheme local volunteers help other people in their community with small services such as
- Transport – giving people lifts to hospitals, doctors surgeries, shops or social trips
- Domestic tasks – changing lightbulbs, testing smoke alarms, moving furniture and many other household jobs
- Mobility problems – volunteers can help by collecting prescriptions and pensions, shopping and posting letters for anyone who is incapacitated
- Befriending – visiting the lonely or bereaved to give emotional support
- Advocacy – help with letter writing or filling in forms
- Outside jobs – occasional garden tidying, dog walking and other odd jobs
All the services are offered free with the exception of giving lifts for which the driver is compensated for his/her running costs by the client, usually at 35 pence per mile.