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Nice one, Ron

9 September 2014

Age UK volunteer Ron Coppins was one of the older people who was involved in developing the Ageing Better initiative. Now 78, Ron is living proof that old age can be fun.

Retired Senior Manager Ron from Hammersmith West London was one of the original members of the design group who helped to develop the Ageing Better initiative.  The group was a diverse group of older people recruited to provide input into the programme design, they were people who were active.

Ron holding his award

Ron Coppins, Outstanding Volunteer of the Year

“I’m still involved with Age UK, I am down the centre almost every day. I get involved in everything from doing the Bingo sessions to helping out in the kitchen and just chatting to people.  Most recently we have been working with primary school children and that keeps me young, I teach them card tricks!”

Before Ron joined age UK he was at a bit of a loss, he had looked after his ageing parents all his life and when they died he was in the wilderness for months, however one day he went along to his local town hall and by chance met with someone from Age UK he became a volunteer there which led him to become involved with the Ageing Better programme.

“If it hadn’t been for my involvement with the Big Lottery Fund none of this would have happened and I am a better man for it. I really miss the friends and fun that we had during all those meetings. I still get asked to show the film that I made to local schools, churches and clubs. I was honoured by the local borough last month by being voted as the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. I know that what I learnt by being part of the Big Lottery Fund project helped me to be a better person and contributed to me getting this award”

“I feel as though I’ve achieved something and I’m proud of that.”

My involvement with Ageing Better

8 September 2014

Christine Squires has spent over 10 years volunteering with disability organisations in Gateshead, helping people fight for the services they are entitled to. She used her experiences as an advocate in helping Big Lottery Fund to develop its Ageing Better investment


I lost my mum to cancer nearly six years ago; she was my only family. When I returned to the home we shared knowing she would never come back, I felt all alone for the first time in my life. I had two options, either to continue with my voluntary work or isolate myself by staying in away from people. I decided to help others who feel lonely and isolated.
I am a wheelchair user, so, after my mum died, I was fortunate enough to get an assistance dog called Kina through Dogs for the Disabled. Kina picks things up for me, empties my washing machine, opens and closes doors, takes off my shoes and socks and brings me my post when it drops through the letterbox. Kina is very, very special to me and with him around I never feel alone – he is my best buddy.

When I am out walking my dog I come across many older people who live on their own. It costs nothing to stop and say hello or share a smile with them. It’s the small things that can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
It was a great privilege to be part of the team of 14 older people that helped develop the Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better investment by contributing our knowledge of the challenges older people face. I was involved in discussing ideas about social isolation and how people could be more involved within their communities.

I was on the interviewing panel to select the contractors that will support the funded areas and was also involved in the meetings to choose the 15 areas where the investment will happen. My involvement with Ageing Better over the last three years has made me feel more confident in my own skills, knowledge and abilities.

The funded areas now need to reach out and find the many older people who feel lonely and isolated. I believe this funding will mean that fewer older people will feel isolated and feel more connected to their communities.
Ageing Better is funding 15 projects across England to tackle social isolation among older people.

Find out more about the projects being funded today

Tackling Social isolation amongst older people

8 September 2014

Social isolation affects more than 200,000 older people in England. Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre, welcomes the Big Lottery funding of £82 million tackling the issue.

Earlier this year the International Longevity Centre –UK (ILC-UK) published a report which argued that policy makers should work to ensure that communities do more than cater for our basic needs. Our report argued that communities should be places of fun for all. We urged the local, voluntary and statutory sectors to work together to tackle the problems of isolation among older people.

Sally GreengrossWhist there has been some innovation at a local level, we are faced with a situation where isolation is sadly all too common.

One in ten over 85s report they have no friends. And a worrying one in four people aged 85 and over say they are at least somewhat dissatisfied with their life overall.

ILC-UK’s analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found that almost four in ten of those aged 85 or older faced some kind of social exclusion. We found that almost four in ten of those aged 85 or older faced some two or more kinds of social exclusion. For those aged 60-64 years old, the figure was 12.4% experiencing two or more kinds of exclusion.

Our research on centenarians published in December 2011 found that quality of life among the oldest old decreases with age.

Tackling the challenges of isolation and exclusion are not simple. But they do require the sort of programmes and investment which is being announced today.

These new projects are extremely welcome as is the long term commitment from the Big Lottery Fund. I hope that evaluation of their long term impact will lead to service improvements, innovation and also policy change. Most importantly, these projects must play a major role in tacking isolation at the local level.

Ageing Better is funding 15 projects across England to tackle social isolation among older people.

Find out more about the projects being funded today

This family has always got time for me

5 September 2014

A network of communal men’s sheds that provide a place for men to meet and make things is springing up across the English-speaking world.  Robert Blow visited the Big Lottery-funded Men in Sheds in Eltham, South London, and found a home from home

At Men in Sheds older men get together in fully equipped workshops to bang nails, plane wood, and drink tea. They also do a fair amount of talking.

The idea for Men in Sheds kicked off in Australia and has now become a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a place where older men come together to share skills and socialise in a friendly environment.

The Eltham Men in Sheds – one of the first in the country – is run by Wendy Smith, Pauline Cahill and Steve Cas-smiling-300x400 Paxman from charity Age UK Bromley & Greenwich. They told me that men – even when they feel lonely – struggle with the idea of joining a support group. Men in Sheds is perfect for them because it gives them the opportunity to do something and make a solid contribution, which men feel more comfortable with than sitting around and talking about their feelings.

If, however, someone needs to talk, Wendy, Pauline and Steve are there for them.

Caswell Pryce started coming to the Eltham shed in March, and already it feels like family to him. He comes to the shed two or three times a week to make picture frames among other things, but also to have a chat.

“I’m a former carpenter and joiner. I’ve worked for firms that when they take you on, you get a load on your shoulder. The work became very strenuous as the years went on. Eventually I ended up with a hernia on the last job that I was on, and it causes me a lot of problems.

“I couldn’t go to work as I wanted to, and that caused a depression. I started to slow down and then I went to the doctor. From there I had a lot of counselling. I had a 12-week course with Time to Talk*. I just wanted to get out of the darkness.

Cas-and-Teresa-300x400“At home I was thinking: ‘Where can I turn to?’The doctor recommended Men in Sheds. Whoever I spoke to – Time to Talk, Greenwich MIND – said ‘Men in Sheds’. The spirit in me said to me: ‘Let me phone Men in Sheds’. So eventually, last March, I did.

“When I phoned Men in Sheds a very pleasant man called Steve picked the phone up. I said to him: ‘I’m in this situation and maybe you’re able to help me.’

“Steve gave me a rundown of what Men in Sheds is all about and invited me to come down and see for myself. So I said OK.

“I came here two days later and as I walked in it was like when something falls in place. All the machinery, the workshop was just there. It was what I needed, I always wanted a workshop; it was my dream. I’m a practical person: I could see an image and make it. I always enjoy making things. As soon as I saw the workshop here, I thought: This is my home.”

Now Cas has been coming to Men in Sheds for several months, he can say: “This family has always got time for me.”

*Also funded by the Big Lottery Fund

A friend is just a phone call away

27 August 2014

Since the Big Lottery-funded Silver Line opened nearly a year ago, it’s proved a lifeline for thousands of older people who are lonely or distressed. Robert Blow spoke to Silver Line call advisers Alan Walsh and Alyson Lazell on why it’s great to talk

“When I get off the phone I feel like I belong to the human race.” The comment is typical of the thousands of people who’ve called The Silver Line since it opened on 25 November 2013.


Alyson Lazell

“On the first day we received 2,000 calls. People were melting the phones trying to get through.” Alan Walsh and Alison Lazell are two of the helpline’s dedicated staff who have been there right from the start. “It was as if there was this tremendous need out there, and people just couldn’t get wait to get on the phone to us.”

The statistics about older people and loneliness are frightening. More than half of all 75 year olds in the UK live alone and one in ten suffers “intense” loneliness but is reluctant to ask for help. In a poll conducted to mark the launch of The Silver Line, nine out of ten older people told researchers that “a chat on the phone” is the most helpful solution when they feel lonely but one in four say they never or seldom have someone to chat to on the phone.

I asked Alan and Alyson what a typical shift on the Silver Line feels like.

“There’s not really an average day. You hear an incredible range of life experiences. One minute, you might be talking to Welsh hill farmer; the next to a 90 year old lady from Hackney. You hear about the life of someone’s who worked all round the world. They’ve rung you for help, but at the same time talking to them is an education in itself.

“You do hear sad stories: someone with MS who hasn’t been able to leave the house for 10 years; people who’ve been married for 60 years and just lost their partner. There was one caller who’d got himself a criminal record because he kept on ringing the emergency services; he was that desperate for someone to talk to.”

Like all the Silver Line staff and volunteers, Alan and Alyson have been professionally trained in handling calls of every kind. On rare occasions they may pick up the phone and talk to someone who feels suicidal. I asked what their approach would be.


Alan Walsh

“We try to act like a good friend. We ask open questions and we’re not judgmental. We don’t put pressure on people. Perhaps the person doesn’t really want to kill themselves; they just feel so lonely. You get an incredible feeling if you manage to turn round someone’s mood. They ring up feeling low and then you talk them through it and they end the call laughing and joking. It’s like shining a torch into the darkness. The light comes on; the mood lifts. It’s incredible to witness. ”

Alan and Alyson feel incredibly privileged to do this work, because often people will confide in them when they wouldn’t to their own family. “Sometimes the grief is too close to talk to your nearest and dearest. For example, there was a man who rang up whose wife was dying. He desperately needed comforting, but he couldn’t talk to his family because they were upset too and he felt he had to be brave for them.”

I ask what kind of person it takes to be a Silver Line call adviser. “You need good communication skills, listening skills, empathy. We talk to anybody about anything. Not all the calls are sad. Sometimes, you get to share nice things, like congratulating someone you’ve got to know on the phone who’s celebrating their 100th birthday.”

Silver Line advisers will offer a chat and sympathy if that’s all the caller wants. People often ring up just to say Good night. But they will also try to signpost someone who’s feeling lonely and isolated to somewhere where they can make friends, such as an Age UK lunch club. The Silver Line’s remit is as wide as the needs of older people, so people will ring up who need practical help but don’t know where to turn. Alan and Alyson have the knowledge and information at hand to direct someone to the right council service or government department.

Both Alan and Alyson obviously love their jobs. Working on the Silver Line might be an “emotional rollercoaster” but for them it offers satisfactions and compensations far from the draining routine of target-driven environments.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to work in a place where everyone is so committed. Most jobs are about money. But this is about having a conversation with a real person.”

The Silver Line is a free, 24 hour confidential helpline for older people, open all day, every day, offering information, friendship, advice, and protection from abuse and neglect.

Need help or just someone to chat to? You can call the Silver Line at any time on 0800 4 70 80 90.

The Silver Line was set up in 2013 with a £5 million award from the Big Lottery Fund.

Doing it for ourselves…

14 August 2014

By Steve Clare, Deputy CEO, Locality

Lights, camera, action!

Do you have a great idea for a community enterprise? Why not capture it on film and enter our locality-compcompetition to win £1,000.

Send us your short films (2-3 minutes – no longer) about an enterprise you’d like to start in your community. Maybe there’s an empty shop you could imagine transformed into a technology hub or a pub closing down which, with some top music nights, could be the centre of the community. Capture on film (camera or phone) all the weird and wonderful community enterprise ideas which you’ve only dreamt about but which you know would make a difference to people in your community! Films will be judged on their creativity and their potential social impact.

Enter the competition

Power to Change

A new generation of more confident, aspirational community organisations is emerging. People are collaborating within neighbourhoods and wider communities to tackle local problems: empty shops; lack of housing, health and social care needs; unemployment. These initiatives are characterised by a ‘can do’ attitude that seeks to unlock potential in people and places: in short, ’community enterprise’.

The Big Lottery Fund is throwing its weight behind this approach with Power to Change, a £150 million initiative launching later this year that will support community led enterprise across England.

Power to Change will give citizens and communities opportunities to turn their ingenuity and passion into economic, environmental and social value – building on the success of established community enterprises like Coin Street Community Builders, Goodwin Development Trust, Fordhall Farm, Fresh Horizons and Beech Hill Community Shop.

It’s time for change. We know that community enterprise works – there are thousands of success stories to emulate. These enterprises have been created by ordinary people (who become extraordinary in doing so) to make their communities better places to live. We can help you do the same – so grab the opportunity now!

There is lots of support on offer for your community enterprise from expert guidance to free events around the country and top tips on how to set up and run a community enterprise in your local area. Find out more



Top tips for newcomers to England Big Advice

22 July 2014

In this, the next in the series of regular updates for would-be grant holders, Karen Addison from the Big Advice team shares her top tips for getting started on your search for funding…


Big adviceI haven’t done this before, how do I get started?

This is one of our most popular questions! The best place to start is our website The funding finder will identify the most appropriate grant for your group and provide an application form with guidance, to get you started.

We are not a charity does that mean we can’t apply for lottery funding?
You don’t have to be a registered charity to apply for funding. You do need to be set up as an organisation with social aims before you can apply. All your group needs is a committee (with at least three unrelated people), a governing document (such as a constitution), and a bank account (with two unrelated people who can sign for it).

I don’t know where to start! Which funding programme is the one for us?
If you have a project idea, the first question to consider is will it cost under or over £10,000? There are two ongoing funding streams that are open with no closing date:

What are outcomes?
Outcomes are how we need you to describe the changes that your project can make to the lives of the people who use it. Outcomes are not the activities or services that your project provides. You will need to use outcomes to tell us about the impact you will make with the funding if you are awarded it.


Is there any other help available?top tips book cover image
The website and our online resources can help you understand the funding process and how to apply to it. Split into easy to access links they can help you plan a successful project and create a stronger application

Sign up for our England e-bulletin to keep up to date with Big Lottery Fund news and receive announcements of new funding opportunities on the website


Young people building their futures

14 July 2014

Build-it gives young people the opportunity to learn construction skills from professional trade mentors, all working together to rebuild community spaces. Since Build-it launched in March 2013, over 700 young people have been supported through the programme working across 15 sites in Lambeth, south London. Head of Build-it James Alexander describes the difference it can make to the young people involved.

Ralph Build-ItI first met Ralph at HMP Thameside where he was finishing a sentence for armed robbery. Ralph told us how he had learnt plastering while inside and was now ready to get some practical experience and make something of his life. Three days after his release, in November 2013, Ralph began work at a Build-it site at Brixton Green.

Ralph was part of a team turning an old ‘Meals on Wheels’ site into a community space. The conditions onsite were challenging and extremely cold, which led to poor morale and often a lack of mentors. Nevertheless Ralph was always on time.

I remember one particularly busy Thursday last December when a local company offered to send their staff down to help finish painting a building that we were refurbishing through Build-it. I was concerned whether we’d be able to manage the volunteers as one mentor had phoned in sick that day but Ralph came to me and said: “Don’t worry James, I’ve got this.” Ralph then went on to organise all 20 volunteers into various groups, giving each of them roles and responsibilities. The day, which could have been very tricky, was a resounding success, with all participants enjoying the experience and the work being completed!

Build-itIt soon became clear that Ralph was a valuable mentor for many other young participants on Build-it. So in January 2014 Ralph became a paid mentor on the programme. This has come as a result of his commitment to the project and hard work ethic. He is a role model to others and a great example of what can be achieved through volunteering in your local community.

Not every young person will achieve this working on Build-it, but we hope that we will have helped them to prepare for the future. Whether that’s securing a job or moving back into education or just simply knowing more about what they want to do.

Build-it is run by London Youth, which has received £1.7 million from Big Lottery Fund.

You can find out more on the Build-it website.

For information about London Youth’s work, visit or follow @LondonYouth

In March 2013 Build-it featured in Channel 4’s The Secret Millions. You can watch it again on Channel 4, Tuesday 15 July at 02:05.


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