New funding has become available in the fight to combat rural loneliness across parts of North Yorkshire. In the effort to respond to the needs of older residents, village halls are being encouraged to become the centre of community life.
Community Friendly Buildings, a new Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) project, will inspire and facilitate village halls across the districts of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby to develop more local services and activities that will benefit older people and those at risk of social exclusion. It will do this through showcasing the prior work of the Community Hubs project and through sharing the knowledge and expertise of the village halls and volunteers on the frontline of running such buildings.
The project is made possible through funding from Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRWCCG), where grants of £250 to £10,000 were made available to support them in the delivery of their strategic plan. Innovative applications that focused on needs of carers, dementia friendly communities, independent living, reducing loneliness and isolation, and exploring new technologies in health and social care were all encouraged.
Community Friendly Buildings comes at a time when loneliness and isolation are key concerns for healthcare providers and policymakers, especially in the context of an ageing UK population. RAY Chief Officer Leah Swain said: “Many village halls in rural areas are already working extremely hard to maintain their buildings and activities, but sometimes the needs of older and vulnerable people are missed. This project will support halls to identify what else they can be doing to reach this often-invisible population, meaning more income for the upkeep of their buildings, and reduced rates of loneliness and isolation in the community. Halls are the best way of reaching these social groups as they often form the heart of thriving communities.
“RAY was in awe of the hard work and commitment of the seven village halls who took part in the Community Hubs project over the last two years, funded by North Yorkshire County Council. We witnessed the growth and success of the village halls within their community and the full extent of their potential as places of great social interaction. We would love to showcase their successes through this new project in order to demonstrate the power of hubs and of a strong, friendly building as the heart of rural village life across these regions.”
Tess McMahon, Community Buildings Officer for RAY, worked on the Community Hubs project and will bring her wealth of knowledge and experience to Community Friendly Buildings. She said: “In making small changes we can often produce a wealth of benefits. This means we can offer significantly more to local older or vulnerable people through this project.
“Village Halls are already hugely friendly places, but it is easy to overlook features that make involvement tricky for some people. There are lots of little things that can be done to make a building more welcoming and accessible, so that everyone feels they can join in. There are new activities, or new ways of running activities, that can encourage wider participation.”
Alongside showcasing the work of the seven hubs, Tess will also facilitate networking amongst village halls through a series of events and offer training and support on becoming dementia-friendly environments. The project will offer advice on marketing services to older people and engaging with the wider community, will provide inspiration on activities halls could offer to older people, and will signpost committees to other local services so they may provide the information to their residents in turn. Through this and more, RAY will bring fresh ideas to the table, reducing isolation, combating loneliness and inspiring rural community buildings with the confidence and know-how to go the extra mile for their more vulnerable service users.
For more information, visit our website www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk or to register your community’s interest call Tess on 0845 313 0270.