New scheme to promote volunteering in South Tyneside to be launched

A scheme aiming to unite voluntary organisations and promote community pride is being developed by South Tyneside Council.

Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 12:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 12:26 pm

On Tuesday (April 17), the council’s place select committee were invited to share their views on South Tyneside Partnership’s ‘Community Pride Strategy’ at South Shields Town Hall.

Working with partners including NHS, emergency services and community groups, the aim is to make South Tyneside an “outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families.”

It will also encourage people to take ownership of their community by being proactive in groups, volunteering and working to improve “community cohesion” in the borough.

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A committee report states initiatives and programmes will be developed “within existing resources” and must be “functional and affordable”.

Strategy and democracy officer, Paul Baldasera, said the scheme was currently “at the ground level” but aimed to “harness pride in areas” and encourage people to be “neighbourly” and volunteer.

Executive director of Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, Andrew Watts, noted Hebburn Helps social media page and the “amazing” response they receive during appeals.

“We want to make that spirit part of everyday life,” he added, explaining the new strategy is about creating a framework that “empowers” individuals and voluntary groups.

The committee heard the Community Pride Strategy could include a volunteering scheme, with council staff giving time to serve the community or using their expertise to help the third sector.

This could include volunteer and community groups receiving advice on governance, finance, or funding applications from council staff.

Other ideas presented by officers included place volunteer opportunities into contracts with council partners or allowing organisations to “adopt” an area and keep it clean.

The place select committee were invited to share their views on the plans, with Coun Doreen Purvis stating the scheme should work with community groups instead of managing them.

She explained that the Friends of Temple park have grown into a “massive thing”, organising their own litter picks and buying their own wheelbarrows and tools.

“People are already starting to do it and what we need to do is harness that good will and the last thing we want to do is put people off,” she said.

She added that the scheme shouldn’t “drown them in a sea of bureaucracy” and should work with groups to “get them to help themselves”.

Mr Baldasera said “when people want to do things, they want to go ahead and do it” but added that health and safety and “making sure people are safeguarded” is also important.

He added that council staff could liaise with groups to learn from delays in process and added “once we go through it, it becomes easier in the future.”

Coun Wilf Flynn said: “I think what has happened in the last few years is austerity has really hit home.

“I think people now realise the limitations and it’s amazing how many groups are setting up. The organisations are there.”

Coun Gladys Hobson said the committee needs to have a “full picture” of all the groups working in South Tyneside.

“It’s all about linking them together but at the moment, everyone is working in isolation and we need to bring them all together in some kind of directory.”

Andrew Watts, of Groundwork, told the committee that there are 2,000 voluntary organisations working in South Tyneside from “very small” to larger groups, Age Concern and Groundwork.

He added that the voluntary sector “isn’t as good at shouting about what it does” with the scheme also working to raise the profile of groups.

The South Tyneside Partnership, through the Improving Communities Board (ICB) plan for 2018, identified community pride as a “key strategy”.

The ICB, in line with the South Tyneside Partnership plan, aims to help host and support initiatives in the South Tyneside area to help strengthen “community resilience” and “cohesion”.

The ICB will now develop an action plan setting out priorities and actions to “facilitate community pride” which will be endorsed by the South Tyneside Partnership.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service