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Loving your parks – whatever the weather

30 July 2015

This week is Love Parks Week, aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our green spaces. But as Sarah French of Keep Britain Tidy explains, a park isn’t just for summer…

Friday 24 July saw Love Parks Week kick off with a launch event at Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens in Ilford. As you may remember, that day also saw a “month’s worth of rain” across some parts of the country.

LPWlaunch1It was raining as we arrived at the park and pouring as we left, but that didn’t dampen our spirits or those of the local ‘Friends groups’ at the event. Six community groups from local Redbridge parks (Seven Kings Park, South Park, Valentines Mansion, Hainault Forest Country Park, Elmhurst Gardens and Wanstead Playground) supported the event and told visitors all about their work.

These groups, like thousands of others around the country, are used to working in their parks come rain or shine. As several of the group members cheerfully put it, “the gardens can really do with the rain”. We celebrated the groups’ enthusiasm and commitment to their spaces with a presentation of certificates, Love Parks plaques, and a cream tea.

The rain definitely didn’t put off the children who came along; clad in wellies and waterproof-onesies they loved splashing in the rapidly growing puddles. It reminded me of an old saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Many of my happiest childhood memories were of parks in the rain … wellies, puddles and mud.

It’s easy to enjoy our parks on warm, sunny days but maybe we need them even more on rainy days? As one mum said to me on Friday, “I just had to get the kids out of the house or it would have been chaos later.” When the world seems grey and wet, green spaces can help lift our spirits. It was clear from the faces of the gardens’ regular walkers that a bit of a shower wasn’t going to stop them enjoying “their park”.

Love Parks Week runs until the 2 August, but it’s a year round campaign aimed at protecting, improving, and promoting green spaces. You can find out more at www.loveparks.org

Understanding outcomes

28 July 2015

Have you ever wanted to apply to one of our funding programmes, but feel unsure or confused about what we mean by ‘outcomes’ and how your project could achieve them?

In our latest application advice blog, Laura Pears from our Big Advice team hopes to make outcomes a lot clearer and help you understand how they fit into the overall objectives of your project to improve your chances of getting funding.  

What are outcomes?Newmains-Community-Trust-(5)

Outcomes are the result of what you do and the changes your project can make over time to address the needs you have identified.

They are best described using change words, such as ‘reduced’, ‘increased’ and ‘improved’. In some cases, outcomes may involve keeping a situation stable or stopping it from getting worse. Think about goals, aims, results and reasons why.

Outcomes should answer the following questions:

  • What is the change you intend to make?
  • Who will it benefit?
  • How will it benefit people (what will they gain or have achieved by the end of your project)?

Have a look at these examples:

Table with examples of outcomes

We run weekly webinars to provide more guidance and support around outcomes; please visit: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/englandwebinars

For guidance on applying to the Big Lottery Fund visit our website here: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/funding/funding-guidance/applying-for-funding

More active collaboration is the ultimate goal

23 July 2015

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund

Feedback from all of our stakeholders offers opportunities to improve our performance – but how well we do it presents a mixed picture. At the Big Lottery Fund we see it as fundamental to the success of our new Strategic Framework, People in the Lead. To succeed in future, we need to move from collecting feedback to listening, responding, sharing and developing with the people and communities we work with – in short, an open dialogue. girl on assault course

We have a huge variety of ways of collecting feedback, from regular satisfaction surveys to co-designing some of our largest funding interventions. It’s towards the latter end of that spectrum that we see some really exciting opportunities to improve our grantmaking. We’ve also used many approaches to involving beneficiaries in the development of our strategic investments in England (five programmes each targeting a complex social challenge, such as ageing or mental health).

To take an example, our Talent Match programme, which seeks to support young people into work, was co-designed with a group of 20 16-25 year olds. They spent two months consulting peers across the country to identify priorities, eventually focusing on youth unemployment and negative perceptions of young people. The group has since worked with us to design the programme and has been part of decision-making committees making major investments.

In Northern Ireland, our Empowering Young People programme also involves young people in the planning and delivery of £50 million of funding over six years – including participation in decision-making panels. All our grantees can budget up to 10 per cent of their grant for monitoring and evaluation and we require applicants to demonstrate they have engaged with their beneficiaries, through feedback, evaluation or other dialogue.

Some of our funding programmes, such as Our Place in Scotland, go further in the level of community engagement they need to evidence. Funding is ringfenced for neighbourhoods and support is provided to build skills and confidence to draw down the money for chosen projects. One of the three core outcomes is that ‘communities have more influence on decisions taken locally’. Priorities are set by residents as part of a shared vision statement.

Feedback isn’t just about funders gathering insight for their own strategies. Our new Online Community aims to encourage a much broader network of projects, organizations and people to share their stories and what they’ve learned. It’s been developed through user testing, and will continue to be shaped by the people using it. Our ultimate goal is to build on what we’ve learned from collecting feedback to go beyond it towards a more active collaboration. We see this as vital to improving not only our own grantmaking but also the practice of a whole host of other people and organizations.

This blog was part of a wider feature by Alliance magazine, published on 18 July 2015 (behind paywall).

Why a culture of trust makes all the difference

15 July 2015

The Well-being in the East portfolio has worked with over 30,000 individuals across almost 30 projects aimed at improving the health, well-being and happiness of local people and families. In this blog Susannah Howard, Director of Enable East, explains the impact these projects have made through building a culture of trust with the people they help. 

cooking-healthy-meal-2At the heart of any well-being project are the beneficiaries, the people who through their involvement with the project can now look at life with a new perspective and replace negative thoughts with hopeful, positive and motivating fresh ideas.

Our projects often meet vulnerable adults and believe in building relationships based on trust and supporting people to make small changes to improve their quality of life.

‘Anna’ saw a poster at her GP’s surgery for Mid Essex Mind’s ‘Building Balance and Resilience’ project. She is 22 and has a social phobia. She came to one of our sessions with her mum but was too nervous to enter the building. One of the project staff introduced herself and reassured Anna that the session was very informal and friendly. We sat Anna near the door so she could leave if things got too much.

During this first session, Anna made no eye contact and didn’t engage in any conversation. She left the room on a number of occasions but did complete the kite making project we were doing that day. We encouraged her to go outside and fly the kite, and although initially reluctant, she did join the others.

Anna attended many of our workshops, and over the next 18 months took part in cooking, crafts and exercise. She was soon able to hold short conversations, look people in the eye and even joined in some sessions without needing her mother there.

Anna’s mother says her daughter’s confidence has drastically improved and she’s gradually overcoming her anxieties and phobias. She now has cognitive behaviour therapy, which is helping her develop coping strategies. It’s been so satisfying to watch this young lady progress so well.

There are many stories like Anna’s coming to light, stories of hope, courage and self-discovery. These wouldn’t happen without the time and commitment of the wonderful project teams across the country, and the beneficiaries who take themselves out of their comfort zone and put their trust in a complete stranger.

The Well-being in the East portfolio, delivered by Enable East, was made up of 29 projects delivered across the East of England, the North East and the East Midlands. It aimed to improve the well-being and resilience of individuals and families through increased physical activity, healthier eating and improved emotional health. 

To find out more, visit Enable East’s website

How volunteering changed my life

13 July 2015

When Saumya Singh arrived in the UK and struggled for 18 months to find work, her confidence was severely affected. But when she signed up to a local volunteering project for migrant women, she could not have guessed just how much it would turn things around.

Saumya

Saumya Singh

I came to the UK in September 2012 from India when my husband chose to study for his fellowship in Emergency Medicine here. With a thriving career back in India I arrived in the UK full of hope that my academic background would open numerous doors for me here too. For 18 months I constantly applied for jobs, rarely getting an interview. After numerous rejections I almost lost hope of ever finding a job.

I have always been confident but I became overwhelmed with self-doubt. Then one day I registered to the Evolution project run by CSV Media in Ipswich, a volunteering programme for refugees, asylum seekers and migrant women who have recently moved to the UK. I signed up to do some exciting courses and realised I could gain qualifications to improve my chances of getting into employment.

I felt really motivated and didn’t want to miss any opportunity to get out there. I visited CSV regularly and one day poured my heart out to Gauri, the Project Co-ordinator. She understood me so well, and due to my MBA in healthcare management she asked me to volunteer at the CSV Media Roadshows, part of Enable East’s Big Lottery Funded Well-being in the East portfolio.

The roadshows gave me a chance to use my potential. Going to different areas, reaching out to people, encouraging them to pursue healthy lives and liaising with other organisations was hugely satisfying. It was great to see people from diverse backgrounds coming together to build a strong community.

Today I work as a Project Officer for the Evolution project. I owe so much to the Well-being in the East Roadshows, where my interests were nurtured, my passion for working with people was recognised and my enthusiasm to help build healthier, stronger communities became evident. Today I don’t feel isolated; I belong to this community as much as this community belongs to me.

The Well-being in the East portfolio, delivered by Enable East, was made up of 29 projects delivered across the East of England, the North East and the East Midlands. It aimed to improve the well-being and resilience of individuals and families through increased physical activity, healthier eating and improved emotional health. 

To find out more, visit Enable East’s website

Putting crisis behind her: Marie’s story

9 July 2015

The Big Lottery Fund recently launched a £30 million initiative to improve the prospects of people living in crisis as a result of hardship. In this blog we hear from ‘Marie’, who turned to her local Citizen’s Advice Bureau when issues in her life began to spiral out of control.

‘Marie’ first approached Ribble Valley Citizens Advice Bureau for help with a benefits form. The adviser realised her situation involved severe financial and emotional difficulties. Following the death of her husband, Marie, 47, was left with large debts including thousands of pounds of benefits over-payment. Her life was at crisis.

Advice-phoneline-picMarie is registered as blind, has learning difficulties, short-term memory problems and is partially deaf and dyslexic. She found the situation overwhelming and began experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. Social services became involved and Marie’s children were taken away from her.

Marie said, “It took me a year and a half to finally ask for help. If it wasn’t for the CAB and the Salvation Army, I would be starving.”

In the first month, the CAB caseworker provided intensive support to help Marie to gain control over her finances. Over the next five months, they helped Marie to get a Debt Relief Order to get her finances under control and work with other local agencies to sort out her urgent housing and benefits issues. The CAB also worked with Marie to arrange emergency food parcels, a much needed carpet and a cooker.

Marie who now volunteers for the Salvation Army said: “Thanks to the help of the CAB and others and a lot of hard work on my part things are much better. I fought hard to get my children back and I’m so happy to have my daughters living with me and to be in touch with my son. Things aren’t perfect but we work through things together.”

Marie’s financial situation is greatly improved and the CAB is working with her on money management skills and continuing to support her in other ways.

Marie is really grateful for all the help she received. “The Salvation Army was great, they gave me confidential emotional support and they even paid for my train tickets so I was able to visit my Dad before he passed away.”

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk for details of your local branch. 

To find out more about the work of the Salvation Army, visit their website

How advice services provide the ‘ultimate safety net’ for people in crisis

7 July 2015

As we launch our new funding programme to help people living in hardship, Director of the Advice Services Alliance Lindsey Poole explains why advice services are vital for helping people cope with crisis. 

LP-headshot-2015

Lindsey Poole

I have a problem; I can’t describe what my job is. My job title is Director of the Advice Services Alliance, but if I try to explain that I run ‘an umbrella group for umbrella groups’ to a new acquaintance, they often raise a quizzical eyebrow.

But that is honestly what the ASA is, we represent the advice sector, but this is a long way from what my job is about. Like the famous NASA janitor who told President Nixon his job was ‘to put a man on the moon’, the purpose of my job is to help ordinary people manage extraordinary difficulties and hardship in their lives.

Advice centres have a long history of opening their doors to people at the most sensitive end of changes in the economic and political climate. Change hits these people first but they may live in an area that is particularly deprived or may lack the personal experience or resources to address their problems alone.

Advice workers provide the ultimate safety net for people, whether they are hit by a one off crisis like a relationship breakdown or short notice eviction or an enduring problem like disability, caring for a relative, or managing debts. Through engaging with people in crisis the advice sector can help them understand their legal rights and how to do deal with similar situations in the future.

Like many other parts of the voluntary sector, our work is often at its best when delivered in partnership with others. We can provide an essential part of the help a client might need, but the issues facing the people we see are often complex. It is by working in collaboration with others, that the client can have all their needs addressed and a circle of support put in place to provide resilience in the future.

So, to say the Advice Services Alliance is pleased with the announcement of new Help through Crisis funding is like saying 1 July 2015 was warm for this time of year! The advice sector is in no doubt about the challenges ahead, but we are ready to build on the partnerships of the voluntary sector and design our services around the client.

You can find out more about our Help through Crisis here. To find out more about the Advice Services Alliance, visit their website

Facing a positive future after crisis

6 July 2015

As we launch our new £30 million initiative to improve the prospects of people living in crisis as a result of hardship, we hear from Sean Gleeson. Sean’s life began to unravel 18 months ago after the death of his mother, but thanks to a local charity he has been able to get back on his feet and is now facing a more positive future.

Help-Through-CrisisShaun, 30, was working at a print firm and living at home in Wakefield with his mum when she sadly passed away. He continued to live in the three bedroom property on his own, but as the bedroom tax was introduced he quickly became unable to cope financially.

Shaun approached the council to request to be moved to a smaller property but was told he wouldn’t be able to because he was already in rent arrears. Unable to pay rent he was evicted and was forced to sleep on the streets. He was also struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.

Shaun had heard about a local charity – Community Awareness Programme (known as CAP Care) – from a friend of his and decided to ask them for some help. CAP Care, which has had National Lottery funding, was able to offer Shaun advice and support and put him in touch with Turning Point, where he was able to receive help for mental health issues, and Bridge-It Housing who were able to immediately arrange for him to move into shared accommodation.

Shaun’s situation has greatly improved thanks to the help he has received. He now volunteers three days a week at CAP Care and helps others to create CV’s and apply for jobs. Shaun said: “It really felt like it was the end of the world, but now I’m mentally and physically stable and have a really positive mentality. I’d be in a much worse position if it wasn’t for these organisations. I really enjoy using my background in IT to help others. It has given me confidence.”

If you want to find out more about our Help Through Crisis programme, please visit our website

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