This is part of a series of conversations with member organisations of the Connection Coalition.
Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care or SCCCC (pronounced S&4Cs) was formed in 1966. Originally set up by church members to combat loneliness and isolation amongst their more vulnerable communities, the charity has evolved into a trusted and integral part of the social care system.
Their mission is to provide older people with a helping hand when they need it most through free services, which include the Good Neighbour friendly visiting scheme (a befriending service) and the Hospital to Home scheme, which works closely with local hospitals and Health professionals. Their award-winning charity has seen huge growth over the past 4 years and currently has 25 full and part-time members of staff and over 180 friendly visiting volunteers helping to combat loneliness in Sheffield. Each year they support over 5,000 older, vulnerable and isolated people in Sheffield and have recently branched out to Doncaster.
Helen Coates and Loma Jones describe their work, what they’re proud of, their challenges and what the future might look like for SCCCC.
What’s your role at SCCCC?
I’m (Helen) Engagement Officer, Loma Jones is our EDI lead. I’ve been in post for 18 months and Loma for 3 months.
What do you love most about your work?
For me, it’s all about connection – making connections with partner organisations and figuring out how we can work together, and through that, enabling our volunteers and older people to connect with each other.
I’m most proud of being part of the team who produced our webinar – ‘Reducing Loneliness in Sheffield’s B.A.M.E. Older People’ (on our SCCCC youtube channel). It was the first time something like this had been done in Sheffield, and we had really positive feedback about how valuable it had been.
Tell us more about your partnership working!
I think the first thing to say is that – it takes time to build your network, and it takes time to build the trust and meaningful relationships that are needed for a partnership. Sometimes it can feel like you’re getting nowhere, but you never know when the links you’re making will come in handy – a link I made 4 years ago, as a volunteer, while trying to get an intergenerational project off the ground (which never came to pass because of Covid lockdowns), turned out to be invaluable last year in my current role, in building a network of organisations looking to better support older people from the LGBT+ communities.
I’m not always a huge fan of meeting on zoom, but it can be invaluable now for building partnerships – ask the people you want to link with for a 30 minute zoom conversation. It’s long enough to have an initial conversation about what you’re both doing, and where there might be an opportunity to share resources.
What’s your biggest challenge?
For our team, staying in touch with a waiting list of lonely older people while waiting for more volunteers is a big challenge. We’re working hard on volunteer recruitment, as well as looking at different approaches to befriending, so we can keep growing and supporting more older people.
It’s an ongoing challenge to reach out to new people, organisations and communities who haven’t heard of us before, while also keeping us in the minds of those who know about us. So anyone reading this, please tell someone about us who may not have heard of us, give us a follow/like/share on social media or check out our website and look for our latest newsletter.
What can you offer other members?
Hopefully, our webinars would be useful for other members, who are seeking to engage with a more diverse client group. Always interested to be part of that discussion with other organisations.
How can other members help you?
Always keen to hear from others working in Engagement and in EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusions)! This is my first (paid) engagement role, and Loma has done EDI work previously, but not in the charity sector. Connecting with others and sharing ideas is always useful!
How does your organisation’s future look?
We’re working hard to maintain and increase our resources – be it income and fundraising or volunteer support in order to be able to reach out and support even more older isolated people.
I hope we’ll continue to diversify our staff and volunteer teams, so we can communicate with more people in their preferred language, and keep growing in our understanding of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Sheffield’s Race Equality Commission report (Race Equality Commission | Sheffield City Council) was published in Summer 2022, a huge step for the city in how we tackle racism and race inequality across all areas (e.g. health, business, crime, communities). SCCCC is embedding the recommendations into our work with older people, and I’m excited to be a part of that.
How can other members best connect with you?
[email protected], or on LinkedIn