Last week it was awarded £19,000 to help expand the project and ensure that it reaches as many people in need as possible.
Chairman of Castor Parish Council, and Trustee of the charity, Cllr Neil Boyce said: “We started the scheme four years ago initially in conjunction with Castor Parish Council, but the scheme has now broadened and covers an additional six parish councils, with two more joining shortly.
“The charity works on behalf of rural communities to build greater levels of communication, advice and connection within the rural areas of Peterborough, as part of Peterborough City Councils’ ‘Think Communities’ programme.
“Our volunteers take a preventative approach to keeping people healthier, happier and safer in their own homes, rather than have them go into primary care services at crisis point which simply puts more strain on services such as the NHS.
“When somebody moves to the parish, we organise a welcoming for them, introduce ourselves and the services that we can offer to elderly, disabled and isolated persons such as grass cutting, food and medicine collection, a form-filling service, homecoming after leaving hospital – that sort of thing.
“While the idea began as a local small help service, we’ve got well in excess of 70 volunteers now, all of whom are DBS checked and across the six parishes we cover some 9000+ residents.”
The RNWPGNS was rolled-out at Castor Village Fete just over 18 months ago, growing in stature and reach ever since.
Cllr Boyce added: “One of the most difficult processes was getting full charitable status because the Charity Commission, who determine these things, are literally swamped with applications.
“However, with help from Peterborough City Council and in particular Cllr Irene Walsh and Adrian Chapman, Service Director for Communities and Partnerships, we were able to fast-track our application with the Commission.
“It still took just over five months, but was granted to us on November 19 last year. From there, it was simply a case of getting our people on-board and rolling out the idea to my fellow Parish Councillors, who have welcomed the scheme with open arms.
“We now cover Castor, Glinton, Ailsworth, Thorney, Ashley & Bottisham and Helpston with Upton and Newborough joining shortly.”
At the recent meeting (March 3) of Peterborough City Council Adults and Communities Scrutiny Committee, it was proposed that £19,000 of funding be given to the RNWPGNS.
“This funding will now allow us to recruit a proper programme coordinator”, Cllr Boyce explained.
“They will work for the charity and the collective parish councils on a daily basis, making sure that our volunteer resources are made available where and when they’re needed most.
“Up to now, we’ve had a part-time coordinator, but their wage has been paid for entirely out of the pockets of the seven trustees of the charity.
“As we’ve grown larger and expanded, we simply needed to get somebody in and pay them a proper salary. That recruitment process will start immediately now that we have the money in the bank.”
The RNWPGNS was hoping to have another ‘launch’ party in May or June at one of the village fete’s, but that is now very much dependent upon the spread of the coronavirus.
Cllr Boyce believes that the model developed by the RNWPGNS could be cloned by other parishes up and down the county and is more than pleased to talk with any parish councillors who are interested in taking up the challenge.
As an example of the work they do, he said: “We had an elderly lady in Castor who was considered the ‘life and soul’ of the village; everybody knew her, everybody liked her and everybody talked with her almost on a daily basis – she was a ‘fixture’ of daily life in Castor.
“Then, it was noticed that a couple of days had gone by and nobody had seen her. By the third day people were worried and talking, so I went over to have a word with her daughter to find out what the problem was.
“It seems that this elderly lady had lived in the same social housing for the past fifty years and was now so frail that she could no longer climb the stairs to the bathroom.
“Worried that, having not cleaned herself for some days, she would smell, she decided that she simply couldn’t leave her house and so had stayed at home on her own.
“She didn’t want to contact social services because she was terrified that they would move her out of her home of so many years and possibly even out of the village altogether; so she had isolated herself indoors.
“When we found out, we went around, temporarily moved her out to live with her daughter, and set about putting in a brand new wet-room, a new stairlift and new hand rails for her so that she could safely get around her home.
“Now, she’s back in her house, once again she’s out and about every day in the village and is once more the hub of Castor community life.”
For more information about The Rural North West Peterborough Good Neighbours Scheme, Castor Parish Cllr Neil Boyce can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rob Alexander
Local Democracy Reporting Service