Royal Voluntary Service

31 October 2018

“I feel more able to go out on my own now. I’m more confident to speak up and encourage others also. I’ve noticed an increase in confidence in people at the group; I’ve made friends and have seen others do the same.”

“The geography of Biddulph is particularly difficult, with the town sitting in a valley surrounded by little community settlements high up on the Moors. That’s why the project is so important to help connect people – and it is something that, when we talk to people, has come up time and time again.

Geography is a critical issue for two of our project’s steering group members, Jean, 81, who lives in one of the neighbouring villages and regularly uses the bus service and her husband Brian, who is a resident at the local care facility.

Jean and Brian are inseparable as partners and as steering group members, they are invaluable. So, when the local bus service, which covers the rural hinterland of Biddulph town, was under threat of closure, it felt personal to the group and we collectively decided something needed to be done.

Not only would it affect project members, we knew if the bus service closed it was going to affect hundreds of other people’s lives.

We decided that some form of action was required to challenge the decision. We came up with a strategic plan and set about carrying out our own survey of passengers and beneficiaries of the service. We also lobbied local councillors and raised the issue with the media. The response from residents was tremendous. Although some people were quiet from the outset, it seemed that the issue had struck the hearts of the community. Unbeknown to the local authority, who saw this as a simple cost-saving decision, they had in fact poked a ‘sleeping rattlesnake’.

The Biddulph community had awoken and over a very short space of time over 1,000 signatures were captured petitioning for the service to be maintained. The media had taken up the story in favour of the residents as they understood the importance of the bus service too.

With all the press coverage and the awareness raised, there was a final meeting staged with public officials, councillors, and the residents, including myself. After some deliberation, the decision was made to rescind the initial plan and for it to be reviewed in January 2019. For the residents locally this was a stay of execution, but for Jean and Brian, our valued steering group members, it meant they could stay together as a couple.

The project has now been running for three years and, although it takes time, people are starting to feel more empowered now to speak up and take action on issues that are important to them.

Jean and Brian’s story is a great example of why it has been really important to identify and support people in the community who have enthusiasm and energy to try to change things. We can help those individuals to develop the skills and confidence that they need, but it’s key to have people involved who really want to see a change and are able to connect to other members of their community to encourage them to get involved.

The project has made a very positive difference to my life and many others involved. Without it, I would be isolated at home. Now, I feel like my voice is being heard and I know that, together, we can make a difference. I hope I have inspired others to do the same.”

Margaret Jackson, project member and resident

 

Royal Voluntary Service were awarded £68,294 in 2017-18 to support the Local People project in Biddulph, with money raised through Health Lottery West Midlands.

Through the Local People programme, residents are supported by one of five national charities to co-produce projects on a very local level.

This case study was produced as part of People's Health Trust's 2018 Annual Review. To read it in full, click here.

To find out about more projects funded by the Trust, click here.

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