Setting up a neighbourhood care organisation

Setting up a Neighbourhood Care Organisation in Ardwick

Chorlton Good Neighbours were invited to give a talk to a group who are interested in setting up a community care group in the Longsight & Ardwick area of Manchester, bur focusing on Ardwick initially.  As CGN has survived (and thrived) for over 50 years we are in a good position to provide some ideas of how to set up such a care group

After talking through the issues with Helen Hibberd, the CGN Coordinator, I wrote down our thoughts and used the notes as a basis for discussion with the three people I met at Longsight Library

This is the leaflet that the nascent Ardwick Good Neighbours (AGN) distributed about the meeting today (17-02-20)

The meeting was with Aron Thornley, Neighbourhood Health worker, Insa, a local resident, Sue Pattinson, Community Care Navigator and myself, Bernard Leach (CGN)

Who do you want to attract to the new care group?

It was clear that the idea was to start with an Ardwick Community Care Group and then move to developing one in Longsight

There is a big overlap in the categories of users, volunteers and organisers/trustees. They are all members of what aims to become a community within the wider geographical community

  • Users – In CGN the gender ratio of older people (65+) is 85% women, 15% men. Aim is continually to develop activities that will appeal to men. Hence the development of the snooker afternoon, the history talk and the gardening group which all attract men.  Overall we aim at people who need/want to engage in activities to remain independent, make friends and get some support. We do not generally take on older people with complex needs (eg dementia). However, we aim to keep long time members involved as long as we can, even if they do develop early stage dementia. In Ardwick the higher number of people from BAME communities should be reflected in activities that appeal to older members of these communities
  • Volunteers– a mix of older and younger volunteers (CGN has about 90 in total). Younger volunteers often have time restrictions on their availability, so need to have weekend activities to engage them. A lot of effort needs to go in to inducting new volunteers and matching volunteers to users. Also need to get DBS checks. The proximity of university students should be an important resource for an Ardwick Care Group
  • Trustees/Committee members– need to have a core of volunteers who will take key positions to ensure policies, procedures and fund raising take place, Good to have allies and links with people in similar organisations

Some Facts about Ardwick/Longsight

  • Estimate of older people (65+) living in Ardwick,  2014   1,200 (reduction of 11% since 2004)
  • A study of the deprived neighbourhoods of three English cities, including parts of Manchester, identified 16% of older people as being severely lonely
  • Compared to the overall adult population of Manchester,
    people living in the neighbourhood are more likely to be Asian / Asian British (54.3% v 24.5%) and less likely to be White / White British (25.2% v 59.8%).
  • High proportion of students as the area includes part of the University of Manchester

Where will the Care Group be based?

Having some sort of regular meeting place and base is important. It has to be reasonably central to the geographical area the group is covering. It needs to be accessible both by public transport and for people with mobility impairments. However, it could be initially based in the lounge of a supported housing block, in a sports club or church hall (though the latter may be potentially off putting to non-Christian users). Room hire costs might be an issue


The aims of the care group should be fairly low key and focus initially on bringing people together in activities that encourage the development of peer group friendships.  The more intensive one-to-one visits to isolated individuals should be slowly developed as the organisation is able to cope with recruiting and training volunteers, matching volunteers with users and arranging for DBS checks

A group needs to be aware of what will attract users to come on a regular basis. This requires an attitude of welcoming and supporting of any new user and finding out what they want and will make them want to come again. This means ensuring that there are experienced meeters and greeters who stick to their task. Coming to a new group can seem daunting. especially to people who lack confidence, are recovering from an illness, who have lost a loved one or been isolated over a long period

Similarly any people coming forward as volunteers need support and their needs being taken into account. Whilst they are critical to success volunteers also come at a cost

Volunteers are great – the lifeblood of any community group – but they don’t come for free when you consider training, support, monitoring and supervision; matching visiting volunteers to appropriate users

Chorlton Good Neighbours aims

Whilst aims can often seem abstract it is worth thinking through what the community care group wants to achieve through the services that it develops and offers. The emphasis is on helping each other, not on charity and aiming to build a sense of community and belonging which is often lacking in all our lives. That is why the name “Chorlton Good Neighbours” is still appropriate. It sounds a bit old fashioned but ‘neighbourliness’ or looking out for each other is what is at its core

Aims of our Community Care Group

  • To work together to improve the life of older people in our local neighbourhood by developing a wide range of social and practical activities and services
  • To bring together our members -both users and volunteers- in a relationship of mutual respect and support to improve individual’s lives and the wider sense of community
  • To make our community a kinder and better place to live by bringing people together, spending time with each other, having fun and working together
  • To continually improve what we do and how we do it by learning from each other and sharing ideas with other community groups
  • To look for ways to access the financial and human resources to ensure the development and continuity of the services and activities we provide
  • To ensure that even the most excluded and disadvantaged older people in our community are able to fully participate in our social and community activities

What Services and activities to provide?

CGN would recommend  that a new care groups should focus initially on providing social activities rather than a befriending service.  The argument being that a befriending service is costly (one volunteer to one user; need for training; monitoring and supervision of volunteers. cost of DBS checks) where as an activity such as a coffee morning is cost effective and relatively easy to set up

However, the people wanting to set up an Ardwick Good Neighbours Care are keen to set up a befriending service from the start as undoubtedly this one-to-one service for the most isolated older people is the most valuable. If the support structure is in place and funding is available then this is a valid approach, especially if it is built up slowly and pressure to take on difficult ‘cases’ from cash-strapped public bodies, is resisted

As regards activities, different activities l appeal to different groups. The 65-80 age group often have very different needs and interests that the 80+ age group. So do men and women. At CGN we have found that men are most likely to attend the snooker afternoon, the history group and gardening group. In certain circumstances having women-only sessions might be useful (eg Muslim women’s groups)  It is always worth trying out different activities, especially if the ideas come from users.

In 2107 CGN celebrated 50 years of providing a service for local older people and in that time we have continually tried to innovate. As well as providing new activities, this also means making good use of the oldest and most consistent event that we have – the Thursday Coffee Mornings which regularly have 70+ people attending. But at those mornings we have speakers coming in, regular “Hear to Help” sessions, a nurses clinic, visits from local Police officers (PCSOs), podiatry services and  drama performances (from our own drama group)

Here is a list of the activities the CGN currently offers:

  • Coffee mornings
  • Sunday teas
  • Exercise classes
  • Lifts to and from appointments
  • Home visits
  • Help with odd jobs
  • Referral to other agencies
  • Provide general advice and local knowledge
  • Information events & newsletters
  • History Group
  • Day trips
  • Gardening group
  • Men’s snooker & social afternoon
  • Melodics singing group
  • Positive Living Group
  • Social events
  • Drama Group

What do our volunteers do?

  • Give lifts in their own cars to users. This includes helping with access to both on site activities – such as a lift to a CGN coffee morning or exercise class- and lifts to off-site activities such as appointments for doctor’s surgeries, hospital or clinics. These lifts are useful in themselves, but they are also a low key version of befriending visits, with regular driver/user chit chat  often  just as important as house visits
  • Support social events such as coffee mornings, fundraising events, Sunday teas and day trips out to places of interest such as the seaside and country hotels.
  • Make home visits to individual older people who are housebound or struggle to get out and about and become isolated. An important, core activity of the group. Both users and volunteers must get something out of the visits for them to be sustainable. Not all visit are easy and they have to be worked on
  • Carry out odd jobs. Assisting our older members with practical tasks such as form filling, dog walking and collecting prescriptions.
  • Wheelchair pushing. Taking housebound users out in their wheelchairs on walks to local parks, banks and shops, providing invaluable companionship, helping them maintain independence and get some fresh air.
  • Support the running and promotion of the group. this can include being trustees, manning stalls at community and school fairs, running concerts and other fundraising events and giving talks to community groups and other organisations
  • Help with one-off projects such as surveys, bid writing, and project evaluation
  • Help with CGN social media presence, producing videos and with publicity see our facebook page: and our website:

Bernard Leach