Resident Ambassadors Val & Jim | Why communities need to come together

It’s estimated by the UK Government that 19 million people volunteer at least once a month! In neighbourhoods up and down the UK, these volunteers are ensuring people get the support they need. From lifeguards to food banks, vaccination centres to shelters, us Brits tend to look after each other – but this can differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. We spoke to Resident Voice Index™ Resident Ambassadors Val and Jim about how communities can give their time and come together.

In the first of our Resident Voice Index™ reports, ‘Neighbourhoods & Communities’, results showed that the proportion of respondents that cared about community involvement was significantly higher than the percentage who felt that they actually belonged to their community. There are clear differences in neighbourhoods across the UK around how much residents feel they have community spirit. So, how can communities come together?

Take the time

We’ve spoken to Val and Jim a few times about the huge difference getting involved can make to neighbourhoods. They have noticed that times are getting harder for some in their community – sometimes just stopping to have a chat can help you to understand where the issues are and really help a person out.

One of the ways they get involved is with their local town council, delivering free Sunday lunches. Val explained:

“A two-course meal gets delivered to about 150 people every Sunday. They don’t pay a penny.” When they are delivered, “People come out and if they want to talk a little bit, we just say: ‘how are you?’ If they want to talk, they have a little talk with us. I think it’s getting back to a few years ago, like what the community used to be when everybody pulled together. It’s not this group or that group trying to fight the other, or the one to be more popular. It seems like we’re all just working together.”

“Not just less food banks, less need for food banks would be better.”

Jim, Resident Ambassador

Tackling isolation

Volunteers and services that regularly check up on people in their community are more able to see if somebody is struggling or vulnerable. In some cases, it can save lives. Jim remembered a scary time when a volunteer, “Delivering Sunday lunches found someone had collapsed in the house. They got the emergency services there to help them. I got the word about to let people know that if you’re isolated, come to us because we are there to help you – and I think that did help a lot.”

Community need is rising

“It is happening more now,” explained Jim. “People are vulnerable. I think there really is more need, especially when it’s close to Christmas time and the winter. Our organisation asked for anybody to donate blankets. I mean, it’s not just bad now, it’s been bad for a while. About six/seven years ago, we held an event in Middlesbrough with the housing association. We heard from people about children who took turns to go to school because they only had one uniform. Now our local food bank has school uniforms on rails and people can go pick them off the rails.”

Val added, “People are realising more that there’s a lot of people out there who haven’t got the money.  People are going out of their way to make donations, whereas before they wouldn’t have put a tin in.”

Together we’re stronger

“Every organisation where we live now works together,” Jim told us. “There’s no outliers, we’re all just all together. It’s just not Covid that’s brought this on, it happened before. I’m a town councillor and when I joined, I joined to get rid of the clutter; it wasn’t right. It feels right now, we have a new town clerk and everything is going brilliantly.

“We’re having an event in the town and everybody in the area is getting together to put on this one event. It wouldn’t have happened a few years ago, but it is now and it’s absolutely brilliant to see. We’re all coming together and we’re all doing one thing.”

The Resident Voice Index™ Cost of Living report is coming. We’ve heard from social housing residents across the UK about the effects that the cost of living crisis is having on them and their households, as well as what could improve for neighbourhoods. There is much that can be learnt from the way in which Val and Jim’s communities come together. By piecing together residents’ personal experiences, perceptions and feelings in the Resident Voice Index™, our aim is to help policy makers, housing providers and residents to make positive change happen.