Community meets to tackle isolation and build a friendly society

Residents, councillors and local community workers this week gathered for the latest Community Committee workshop and meeting, at Middleton Leisure Centre.

Belle Isle + Middleton in Bloom (image: Taj Virdee)
Belle Isle + Middleton in Bloom (image: Taj Virdee)

The opening session saw participants explore and discuss the issues of social isolation, mental health, and ‘social prescribing’ – a major new NHS priority, whereby patients are encouraged by health professionals to get involved in local projects and activities.

Themes that came out included the reality that many different types of people experience isolation -from young parents, older people, new migrants, and even some youngsters suffering the addiction of games consoles! People also talked about the power of small acts of neighbourliness, and also the way in which bureaucracy and regulation can ‘kill kindliness’. And one key question that emerged was how we can make the challenge of making our communities more friendly and connected ‘everyone’s business’.

Some great stories were shared, of regular people taking action to break isolation and make a difference – often for little or zero money. Like the story of Robin Silverwood and his work getting members of Middleton Elderly Aid into wood whittling (reported previously in South Leeds Life, here); or the case of new Syrian refugees doing gardening for older members of their neighbourhood, in exchange for the opportunity to practise their English.

Following the workshop, the Community Committee itself – made up of the councillors for the area – met, to report back on their work locally, and to agree and present grants to local groups. Amongst others, grants were allocated: to the community galas; for Christmas Lights in both Belle Isle and Middleton, and Beeston and Holbeck; to Belle Isle and Middleton in Bloom, for hanging baskets and planters; to Hunslet Methodist Church, for their Wednesday morning community drop-ins; to the Cross Flatts Park Bowling Club; and for various environmental schemes in Beeston and Holbeck.

Following on, Cllr Kim Groves reported back from the Employment and Skills board, talking about new links made with Jet2, training opportunities for hospitality work, and enabling trainee builders to access learning on new construction techniques used within shopping centres such as the new Victoria Gate in town. Cllr Angela Gabriel, for the Children and Families group, flagged up the new Directory of Youth Activities booklet – due out all across the community imminently.

Cllr Adam Ogilvie, for the Environmental group, fed back from the recent and very successful community workshop on tackling local issues (previously reported, here). Cllr Judith Blake, for the Older People’s group, reported on the packed event at the Civic Hall in early March (as reported here), and asked if the board might consider creating a directory of activities for older people. And the Old Cockburn Sports Hall was also mentioned – the Council are currently conducting a public consultation on the building, with one option being that they gift it to a local charity to run.

The Community Committee meetings take place at least four times per year, in different locations, and the public are very much encouraged to attend. (Food and drinks are provided!) The next meeting is due in June or July, although dates are still to be confirmed. As ever, keep an eye on South Leeds Life for further updates and news.