Sheffield older persons charity picks up UK's highest voluntary honour

A Sheffield charity that's been serving older people in the city for more than half a century has been awarded the nation's highest possible voluntary honour.

Sheffield Churches Council Community Care (SCCCC) has become one of just a handful of South Yorkshire organisations to have ever been awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Fittingly it’s one of the SCCCC’s army of befriending volunteers who was chosen to represent the charity at an exclusive Buckingham Palace garden party, which included a speech by Her Majesty The Queen.

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Anne Ashforth, aged 32, from Nether Edge, has been visiting a housebound woman in her 80s called Alma for two years and she says the visits have benefitted them both. She was one of two volunteers to be interviewed as part of the assessment process for the award, which was established 15 years ago to coincide with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Anne said: “I lost my grandma a few years ago and ever since I felt like I’d lost a connection to that generation and found myself pining for the kind of conversation and wisdom that I couldn’t have any more. That’s what pushed me to volunteer for the charity two years ago, after its Good Neighbour scheme was recommended to me by a friend.

“I fell pregnant and visiting Alma quickly became a part of my motherhood journey. On maternity leave I struggled to get into a routine, but knowing I’d see her once a week was really good for me. Alma has five children and several grandchildren so would give me helpful advice. I let her hold the baby and I think it made her feel like she was useful and valued.

“Although Alma is cognitively healthy, she is completely housebound. Even though she has a big family who visit regularly, she still gets lonely. She was born in Jamaica and we often talk about her culture and her coming to this country.

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“I was so pleased that SCCCC won the award, which is deserved recognition for its efforts to help older people for 50 years. I have only been a small part of their story, but I went to Buckingham Palace with another volunteer Rosemary Ashburner, who has been giving her time on and off for nearly 20 years.”

The Queen’s Award is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

Any group doing volunteer work that provides a social, economic or environmental service to the local community can be nominated for the award. The groups are then assessed on the benefit they bring to the local community and its standing within that community.

Winners get a certificate signed by the Queen and a domed glass crystal which will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant at a special ceremony in the autumn.

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Mark Storey, Chief Executive Officer at SCCCC said: “This award is such a huge honour and an overwhelming tribute to the hard work and dedication of our incredible volunteers.

“They are the heart and most important part of our work and generously give their time and energy, enabling us to much needed help to older people in Sheffield for over 50 years.”

SCCCC was set up in October 1966 by church members of all denominations from across Sheffield, but has today expanded to support older people of different faiths and secular groups from across the city.

It thrives on its strong community links and works alongside the council, NHS and all church denominations to achieve its mission of improving the wellbeing of older people in Sheffield.

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The charity’s flagship ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’ offers a befriending service to over 65s who are referred by health agencies, care teams or relatives. Social visits, welfare checks, telephone support and one off emergency shopping trips all form part of the help offered under the scheme.

Other initiatives include support for people after they’ve been discharged from hospital, help for people who’ve been taken to hospital but have no family around to support them and advice patients and families in finding care homes.

SCCCCs volunteers already give more than 4,000 hours of unpaid work each year visiting older people to battle loneliness and isolation.

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