Local Conversation in Merstham

07 November 2019

In Surrey, there are small pockets of disadvantage which are hidden by relative affluence around it. Even within Merstham itself there is vast inequality. Because of the project, people are being given opportunities they might have not had otherwise to make decisions, lead on initiatives and ultimately lead happier and healthier lives.

“We’re into year three of the Local Conversation now and our priorities are parks and green spaces; activities for local people; a Voice for Merstham [a campaigning group]; and a digital community. 

Residents lead on activities and we now have a fishing group, allotment, community cash box and a youth cafĂ©. 

“Isolating myself is the worst thing I could do for my mental health so getting out in the community and feeling welcome is the best thing I can do. Coming to the hub gives me a feeling of self-worth. I’m helping the community. It’s nice to be needed.”

Zoe Charman, project member

Allotment in Merstham


We have a village website where people can access local information. The content promotes the work of individuals and groups. It shows people are valued and what they are doing is important. 

A Voice for Merstham has been one of our biggest challenges. Earlier in the year we did work around political literacy. A lot of people we work with don’t vote because they don’t always understand what the parties stand for, what the powers of those elected are and how it affects their lives. 

Following some training at our community hub, volunteers organised a hustings event ahead of the local elections. We had representation from all the local parties and around 35 residents attended. The event was really important as it gave residents the platform to speak about issues that are important to them and showed that the local politicians valued the area. 

One of the emerging ideas from the group is around advocacy for people who are appealing benefit decisions because it has been a really big issue, particularly around mental health. It would be peer support so people would be upskilled to help fellow residents. 

There is so much happening in the community and it’s all helping to strengthen ties. Now, we’re looking at how we can engage more people to gain power, take control collectively and influence the things that matter.” 

Tracey Burrows, Merstham Community Facility Trust 

The Local Conversation in Merstham is supported by Merstham Community Facility Trust  and funded by the Trust using money raised by Health Lottery South East. Local Conversations enables people to have voice, control and influence over the things that matter to them locally. Over a number of years, residents are supported by a local anchor organisation to realise their long-term vision for the area. By ensuring that control is in the hands of residents, the programme works to address the underlying structural causes of health inequalities.

 

This case study was produced as part of People's Health Trust's 2019 Annual Review. To read it in full, click here.

 

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