On Friday we were lucky enough to be invited to a Good Neighbour Schemes Forum, by Suffolk ACRE, who helped us set up our scheme and the 29 schemes before us. It started with a “do it yourself lunch” (where we all brought a plate of food), a description that belies the excellent spread and the work that went into it. Some were better DIYers than others and the home made bread sandwiches and locally made pork pies were particular highlights!
Over lunch we got to know the members of some of the other schemes and after lunch we all gave a brief report on the highs and lows of the year, or since the newer schemes started. It was very reassuring to learn that our path, so far, is very like most of the other schemes when they were in their infancy, particularly in the time it takes to establish trust in the scheme and spread the word. We agreed that many people who needed help were, like us, reluctant to ask for it and many of the more established schemes felt it was important to be active in the community and seek out (obviously in a discrete and sensitive way) those that might need a helping hand. We hope that, as our volunteers forge individual links with other local organisations, word will spread and we will connect with more of those that need us. It’s started already and we’ve had a steady flow of calls in the last couple of weeks.
We were also updated, very clearly and concisely,by SAVO. on various important changes impacting on the administration of the scheme, notably changes that the government is making to CRB checks. This need not bother our service users at all, or our volunteers very much (and not just yet) but we will be producing a couple of new pages for the volunteer manual in due course to reflect best practice. We were all very grateful not to have to reinvent the wheel ourselves – fortunately for us, SAVO had condensed a huge unwieldy bit of draft legislation, on which they were consulted, into the essential facts (and the normal legislative grey areas) that were relevant to us.