One of the things our district can be really proud of is the fantastic volunteering community we have.
I firmly believe volunteers are the unsung heroes behind many of today’s communities and I’d like to use my column this month to pay tribute to the 78,000 people who give so much of their time to make a difference to the lives of others in this district.
As all public services, especially health and council services, are being decimated by the government cuts to our budgets, the relationships between public bodies and the voluntary sector have become vitally important.
I know that the partnerships the council has developed with volunteers have been fundamental to helping us transform some services, ensuring that people are being supported, and that we can continue to improve our local communities.
Volunteering is something that strengthens communities and can make a huge difference to people’s lives. Not only does it help those who need it, but it also connects people and helps to build a support network and a community.
Wakefield Council has more than 1,700 volunteers who offer their time to support us and our services. This ranges from school governors, sports coaches and library volunteers to snow wardens and stewards at major events. We also have volunteers who arrange litter picks, do youth work and support vulnerable young people and adults.
One of our new projects is the Care Home Vanguard, a project aimed at tackling loneliness by joining up services for older people in supported living schemes and care homes. This is a pioneering project, which will see the council, health providers and the voluntary sector work together to help people live longer, healthier lives at home and within their own communities.
We also have developed great relationships with friends groups who we work with to look after our parks and green spaces. These groups play a huge role in their local community, planting trees and flowers, working with schools, organising events and protecting wildlife and the local ecology. We are also able to support friends groups to access external funding that we can then match from our own budget to deliver new play areas or improve park facilities.
There are more than 1,500 charities and community groups in our area so sadly I can’t mention them all, but there is such a vast range of volunteering in this district. We have people improving the lives of older people, with tele-friending and day trips, helping those in need with food banks and offering friendship opportunities at various clubs.
Volunteers also play a key role in our hospitals and hospices, befriending, gardening, running cafes and shops and supporting patients.
But, as well as knowing what a tremendous part volunteering plays in our community, the volunteers can really benefit from the experience too. You’ll see the difference you’re making, even with just an hour of your time. Maybe you’ll gain some perspective on life and learn something new about the world or about yourself.
So to the thousands of volunteers already out there, I thank you for the huge part you play in making this district a great place to live, for caring for our people and our places.
And to anyone who thinks they have the time, no matter how little, please think about joining our amazing volunteering community. You can go to www.wakefield.gov.uk/volunteer to find out more.