Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours’ Scheme is pulling out all the stops

A good neighbours’ scheme in Leeds has been more than living up to its name during lockdown.

Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 5:41 pm
Joan Bennet with her copy of Shine magazine which has helped older people in Leeds feel connected during lockdown.

Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours’ Scheme (CG&DGNS) on Station Road is normally a hub for people over 60 doing a hive of activities. But it has had to change tack because many of its members have been shielding at home.

The charity decided if people couldn’t come to its luncheon clubs or coffee mornings then it would take the food hampers and other vital services to them.

So far the scheme has helped deliver 702 free food hampers and 175 afternoon teas to people isolating at home. And its band of dedicated volunteers has also collected more than 200 prescriptions.

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Staff from Leeds Mecca Bingo provided 59 CG&DGS members with a ChristMAY dinner during lockdown in May.

Jo Horsfall, CG&DGNS manager said: “What we are trying to do, rather than focusing on what we can’t do, is to look at what we can do. That’s the attitude we are using. We can’t do everything but we can do quite a lot. We can change and adapt things so that we can provide the best service possible for people.”

That can do ethos is exemplified by its food initiatives during the pandemic. It has worked with Leeds Mecca Bingo to deliver fish and chips and Nando’s chicken and chips to those in need of a treat. In total more than 300 meals were dished up to people who couldn’t get out. A volunteer from Yorkshire Air Ambulance also helped to collect the meals and a team of drivers delivered them.

Food has also been donated by Tesco Fair Share and Marks & Spencer. While B&M gave away £1.500 worth of goods, which were used for the hamper scheme.

Jo said local businesses, community groups and councillors had also supported them, adding: “People have been so kind and it is really humbling to be part of it.”

The group has been running virtual art classes. Pictured above: Sam Chadwick.

The group has also been reaching out to people through its Digital Health Hub and Telephone Befriending Service. The former has helped 50 people get online, with the oldest being 94-years-old. While the latter has also helped isolated people keep in touch.

Jo said: “If we hadn’t have had the Digital Health Hub there wouldn’t have been as many people socially included in the scheme. We were very fortunate to have that and the back up from 100% Digital Leeds. Having 50 people trained all over the phone is in credible because some of them are hard of hearing. It has opened a new world for people.”

All of its classes also being held virtually via video-conferencing. And Jo said these would continue after the lockdown as people wanted to go out less in the short days of winter.

Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours’ Scheme has also been working with Voluntary Action Leeds and Leeds City Council. Jo said her group was covering the Cross Gates and Whinmooor area for the Community Care Volunteering scheme. People call a central number (0113 378 1877) and are directed to those best placed to help.

The Good Neighbours’ scheme weekly virtual coffee morning and quiz is on Zoom.

Jo added: “Being a volunteer hub has supported us and really raised our profile and showcased the work that we do.”

“I feel we have made a positive impact out of a very negative situation during a very uncertain time. We are happy that some of the volunteers that have been introduced to us by the hub will continue to support us long term. I think all the work that Voluntary Action Leeds and Leeds City Council have done to support Leeds and to respond to local needs really needs to be shouted about - because it has been fantastic.”

ACTIVITIES:

WEB TECHNOLOGY has been a boon for keeping older people connected during lockdown.

Normally Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours’ Scheme hosts socially inclusive events in person, but it is now staging them online to help those staying at home. Manager Jo Horsfall said: “Digitally, we now have a book chat group every Monday. We’ve also taken our monthly bereavement group, in partnership with Carers Leeds, on there too.”

She said bereaved people, who were also feeling lonely at home, had felt the benefit of peer support online.

Its usual coffee mornings and talks are now also virtual. And the group is keeping people’s minds and hands active with new classes like virtual art and cryptic crossword.

Digital inclusion work is also ongoing to help people ‘attend’ online church meetings. While others are embracing WhatsApp for the fist time to contact relatives in America.

But Jo is keenly aware that not everyone is web savvy. Some people have had socially distanced visits at home, while others have received welfare calls over the phone. More than 300 people have been getting a weekly ring from a befriender.

The group has also delivered copies of Shine magazine. The initiative by Leeds Older People’s Forum publication is designed to help older folk feel connected during lockdown.

If you are over 60 and live on the Cross Gates side of York Road you can access the Good Neighbours group’s services.

For more see: crossgatesgns.org.uk. You can also call 0113 260 6565 or email [email protected]