Buckinghamshire Street Associations win national recognition
A good neighbour scheme that tackles loneliness, social isolation and doorstep crime across Buckinghamshire, has won national acclaim.
Buckinghamshire County Council's Street Associations scheme was named as one of nine leading community projects at the prestigious Local Government Chronicle Awards, presented by broadcaster Hugh Dennis at London's Grosvenor House.
The scheme aims to recruit people in every road and provide them with resources and free workshops to heighten awareness of issues such as doorstep crime, scams, dementia awareness and domestic abuse, to increase the wellbeing and safety of the community.
A delighted Noel Brown, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, said that being a national finalist was tribute to the commitment of almost 300 residents who have become actively involved in six pilot Street Associations across the county, and to the untiring work of Helen Cavill, who leads the project.
"We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of residents who have become involved in these six Street Association pilots," said Noel. "The success is down to their commitment to restore community spirit: making their communities places where neighbours look out for each other, and where those who are vulnerable feel safe."
The six pilots - in Hughenden, Aylesbury, Princes Risborough, Chesham and Burnham - have been going for more than 18 months, set up and run solely by neighbours, with pump priming from the County Council. Now another 13 communities have asked for information about how to start a Street Association.
Helen Cavill, Street Associations' Project Lead, said during the past 18 months 200 streets had become involved in the six pilot schemes, and 225 residents had received awareness training in doorstep crime, scams, domestic abuse and the effects of dementia. Encouragingly, she said, 75 local businesses had given their backing.
"Apart from the 13 communities that have shown interest, we've had enquiries from two other county councils, which is great news for the cause of good neighbourliness," she said.
Since the pilots launched there has been on average a 40% increase in the number of referrals to the County Council's preventative services, where Street Association members have identified vulnerable people who need extra support, and who might have slipped under the radar.
Also, members have made 30 referrals to the Trading Standards team about doorstep and general scams, which would not normally have been expected.
Helen said it was easy to start a Street Association: with one simple information pack, a desire to know your neighbours are safe and well, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
People wanting to start a Street Association in their community can ask Helen for a starter pack, which comes with signposting materials: a directory of local organisations and the authorities they are most likely to get help from, tips on organising community get-togethers, plus guidance on trouble signs to watch for.
Noel Brown said: "This is such a simple 'win-win' formula. By tackling the problem of social isolation, rediscovering the culture of neighbourliness, we're making it much easier to reduce doorstep crime."
Buckinghamshire's Street Associations scheme has been funded by the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner.
How to start a Street Association: https://www.buckscc.gov.uk/services/community/helping-your-community/street-associations/
Case study - Eileen Shepherd Eileen Shepherd was miserable, depressed, and lonely. Living in a neighbourhood where no one spoke to anyone else, the pensioner felt she had nothing to get up for in the morning, and no purpose in life. A socially isolated prisoner in her small home, Eileen was trapped behind her own front door. That was six months ago.
Today, she says she has a lovely group of friends, she feels part of the community, and mornings are no longer a depressing struggle. And it’s all thanks to her local Street Association, an innovation by Buckinghamshire County Council.
Now, the scheme that has helped Eileen - and almost 4,000 other residents in six pilot schemes across Buckinghamshire - is now being rolled out to more communities.
Eileen said she felt isolated because there was no culture of neighbourly chatting over the garden fence, or of neighbours looking out for one another. "It's completely different now," says Eileen. "The Street Association has changed my life completely."
IN THE PICTURE:
Street Association team: Helen Cavill (left) with Eileen Shepherd (right) and fellow street members Lesley Fernando, Jenny Jones and Jan Seaton.