We all know the mantra of austerity and have locally seen the effects of cuts on public funding in our neighbourhood, and in Sheffield at large: Bin collections changed to a two week rota, Highfield Adventure Playground was on the brink of closure, there is no park ranger dedicated to our area, there are plans for less gritting and fewer snow wardens available in the city for next winter, less street cleaning, welfare benefit sanctions to new arrivals, food banks are used more than ever, Surestart services have decreased, travel restrictions for pensioners on South Yorkshire Transport, And many more…
The city is being granted less public funds and the local council is having to make difficult decisions on what the money is spent on and how we can make sure residents can still rely on the council to deliver vital services, and that the community is being listened to on the way these services are be developed to better serve their needs and the needs in their areas. Different voices on the cuts have been heardthat have also motivated residents in Sharrow to take action in various ways, ranging from looking after green spaces the council can no longer maintain as often, litter picking to promote cleaner environment, campaigning to keep beloved services open, organising events to revitalise the community, etc.
Community Organisers and Sharrow Community Forum have been listening to your concerns for the past 20 months now, and supported many local residents to realise their ideas and do positive things for our community, such as the ones mentioned above. As a result of the listening activities done with local residents, recording their loves, concerns and visions for a better Sharrow, we applied for and were accepted into Our Place Programme in March 2014. One of the strengths of our application was the fact that we have a community organiser in the area.
Our Place is a national initiative managed by Locality, a network of community-led organisations, and aims to…
“give people more power over local services and budgets in their neighbourhoods, aligning these with all the other resources that the community can bring. Communities and public service organisations will be supported to develop an operational plan and take control in their area to make sure that things work in the best way for local people. Using the Our Place approach, you can influence how local services are designed, planned and delivered“
Since April alone, we have listened to over 100 local residents on a 1-2-1 basis and organised 7 creative consultation events attracting the participation of a wide range of residents. These listenings further reinforced our understanding of the particular needs of the community, the views expressed to the organiser over the last 20 months, during which over 500 residents have been listened to.
We have discovered that most residents love…
- the parks and green spaces
- their neighbours, the location
- the vibrancy of the area
On the flipside, the biggest concerns are…
- the environment and safety
- lack of social interaction among people
- cuts to public services
- lack of safe and welcoming spaces for young people
What the Our Place programme will enable Sharrow Community Forum to do, is to support local residents in the neighbourhood to gain a voice and “be the change they want to see in Sharrow“. The whole point of Our Place is to re-think how services are actually delivered in, and designed for, our area to create an environment where the local community can fully participate in the decision-making and development of their living environment, and actively contribute both to the planning and doing parts of these developments.
Sheffield has been one of the hardest hit by the Government’s budget cuts and is lookingat a total loss of £238 million in public funding. While not everyone is happy or can agree with the decisions made by the council in recent years, we may be able to understand the pressure the city council is under when looking at the figure above. It might therefore be time to look at a grassroots approach, utilise the talent and energy in the communities, to reconsider how public funding can be spent more efficiently on a more local level. Sharrow Community Forum wants to be part of this process and firmly believes successful services cannot be designed or delivered without the support and active participation of the community affected by them.
We are therefore looking to actively collaborate with Sheffield City Council, local organisations and statutory bodies to establish better lines of communication for residents to voice their concerns and contribute to responsive governance and active citizenship in Sharrow.
Since March 2014 we have been working hard at coming up with a preliminary plan based on the information people have provided us through the 1-2-1 conversations with, and would now like to invite everyone to comment on and be part of the next phase of making concrete changes and taking action. There are three core partners in the programme,Sharrow Community Forum (including Sharrow Work Club), Shipshape, and Ignite Imaginations (previously know as Art in the Park).
Our preliminary ideas for the area are listed below under different themes. The process is open and developing, and local residents are invited to contribute to the programme in many ways; by giving feedback, sitting in development meetings, participating in ’Our Place’events, conducting research in the area, talking to their neighbours, friends and families, and seeking to address immediate concerns through action in the community with the support of the community organiser and Sharrow Community Forum.
1. Create a New Volunteering Programme
- Provide formal volunteering opportunities to become Community Champions, Health Champions, Play Champions and Creative Champions
- Provide structured training on community organising and how it can be used in various field of volunteering
- Provide an opportunity for local residents to get involved in positive projects in the area, based on local needs
2. Tackle environmental problems
- Establish better communication between local residents and local authority to tackle environmental issues in Sharrow
- Run regular forums for local residents to voice their concerns and explore solutions to environmental problems with decision-makers
- Provide support for local residents to tackle issues in their streets and neighbourhoods through concrete actions
3. Sustainable Employment and Skills programme
- Provide more learning opportunities for local residents based on their needs
- Create sustainability in public contracts to prevent breaks in service
- Link with other support services (e.g. health and well-being) to ensure successful job search and keeping a job
4. Develop Health and Wellbeing Services
- Work more with referring agencies to reduce time wasteage and duplication of work
- Explore potential for social prescribing (referrals to art, culture and sports activities)
- Introduce more activities for older people
- More activities and services for men
5. Prevent Further Erosion of Services for Young People/Families
- Keep Highfield Adventure Playground open and staffed
- Provide solid links with other service providers to allow families to seamlessly move from service to another
- Discuss with City Council on bridging gaps created by loss of services and on the more efficient use of existing funds
- Provide sustainability for the local library
- Provide more volunteering opportunities and activities for local young people
- Give us feedback on the preliminary ideas above via e-mail/telephone:firstname.lastname@example.org (community organiser) / 078 6052 email@example.com (SCF Development Manager) / 0114 250 8384
- Contact the community organiser if you have an idea you want to realise in the community and need support in making it happen (see examples of what other residents have done so far in the area)
- Come and meet the Community Organiser at the Forum to share your ideas and views on Sharrow. The Community Organiser can also come and meet you!
- Send us your contact details if you want to be invited to an Our Place development meeting/event
- Have conversations with your neighbours, friends and families on how they feel about living in Sharrow
- Give us your ideas how YOU would like to be involved!
Our Place initiative, introduction: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/our-place/#sthash.YCArnsIe.dpuf
Saving Money by Doing the Right Thing – Why ‘Local by Default’ must replace ‘Diseconomies of Scale’ -report: http://locality.org.uk/resources/saving-money-local-default-replace-diseconomies-scale/