A new Cross Gates and Whinmoor Community Hub opens to help people move to a 'new normality' after coronavirus pandemic
The work of a collective in Cross Gates to provide support to local people during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has led to the opening of a community hub to help transition to a new normal.
When the country was placed into lockdown last year so were the 32 groups that Cross Gates Good Neighbours provided as a lifeline to 1200 members who are aged over 60.
For many of them, they have barely been beyond their front gates or enjoyed social company since.
But Cross Gates Good Neighbours sprang into action of a different kind when it was asked by Leeds City Council and Voluntary Action Leeds to oversee a pandemic programme of keeping in touch with people, checking in on vulnerable members and providing help from financial to food for those that were really struggling to get by.
It became known as the Cross Gates and Whinmoor Community Hub and dropped off food hampers, collected prescriptions and shopping, organised activity packs of jigsaws and crosswords to keep people entertained at home and started a befriending scheme to ensure isolated and lonely people had someone to chat to.
However, as the world moves towards more normality, the Cross Gates hub is to become a permanent fixture in the community as it opens up its own base within Crossgates Shopping Centre.
"We have done a hell of a lot more but as things have calmed down, Leeds City Council and Voluntary Action Leeds, who funded the hubs, didn't want to lose all the good work that had happened so they have focused on the transition to independence for people with a sustainable model."
The new hub, which was opened on Thursday by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun Asghar Khan, will build on the work it did during the pandemic and what Good Neighbours used to do - but it will also work for the wider community and not just older people.
Two of the main strands of work it is keen to continue is digital connectivity where experts can give tips for getting online and health services.
During the pandemic, 100 older people were taught how to use Zoom so they could attend groups that had to meet online and just last week 29 older people tuned in for an online quiz. Health drop-ins have seen 200 COVID booster jabs administered and 100 regular flu jabs. At a recent blood pressure session, 55 people were checked and five referred to a GP for having a dangerously high level.
There will be a dementia and diabetes clinic, CPR training with St John's Ambulance, internet banking with HSBC following closure of the local branch and, Ms Horsfall added, many people wouldn't access these via their doctor or usual channels - but prefer the environment of the hub.
Other services that the hub are involved with are Talking Point which is adult social care, Carers Leeds-Bereavement group, Tribe, Active Leeds and mental health well-being services.
Around 11 of the original groups managed by Cross Gates Good Neighbours have started to meet again in person but with lower numbers, meeting COVID guidelines and also still have an online alternative.
Ms Horsfall added: "We want to be really community led and are asking people what they want to see, what services are missing and we will try and fill the gaps if we can. We will sign post where we can and if we don't know - we will find out.
"It is an exciting project. It is early days but it is looking great. It is opening up opportunities for the wider community. We had a lady new to the area asking us if there were mum and tots groups, another guy had problems with an O2 bill and was quite upset by it and another lady came because a gardener had ripped her off. It is quite varied.
"The hub is a great piece of work that has developed from the funding from Leeds City Council and Voluntary Action Leeds to assist vulnerable people. This is the next step and we want to take that forward and bring the community back together.
"It is very much about getting things back to some kind of normality. People have lost their confidence."
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