PRESS RELEASE 2/4/2015: Good Neighbours to boost North Yorkshire’s rural communities

Good Neighbour schemes are to be introduced across North Yorkshire to offer practical support to people in rural areas.

The schemes will be operated by volunteers, and will be run by a village or a defined area of a market town. The kind of  support offered by a Good Neighbours Scheme might include helping with household tasks, dog-walking in bad weather, picking up prescriptions, giving a lift to the shops or the doctors or just simply providing some company.

This assistance will be freely-available to anyone in the community who needs a helping hand. There will be an additional focus on older people to help them to live in their homes independently for longer, to feel more connected to their neighbours, and reduce their need for health care services.

Good Neighbours Scheme volunteer co-ordinators will be supported by Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY), a local charity which has been funded by North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities Programme and NESTA to co-ordinate the project. Villages and market towns across the seven districts of North Yorkshire, Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Harrogate, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby, will be eligible.

RAY will be able to offer advice on running a Good Neighbours Scheme, bring co-ordinators together to learn from each other, help make contacts with key partners and provide funding for equipment and insurance to get your Scheme started. RAY will be working with national partners to learn from Good Neighbours Schemes across the country, as well as from existing local schemes.

The original idea for “good neighbours” comes from Bedfordshire Rural Community Council, who has been running them for the last twenty years. Bedfordshire has around 700 volunteers they can call upon, and together they help over 2000 people a year. This significant feat is now being turned into a model of best practice and rolled out to five other areas of the UK with the hope that it will go nationwide.

Leah Swain, Chief Officer of Rural Action Yorkshire, said: “In twenty years time, one third of the population in North Yorkshire will be over 65 - that is one in three people - and there is going to be a heavy strain on our healthcare system. In rural areas we have taken it for granted that we all look out for our neighbours – but with more people commuting out of villages to work and returning late at night we sometimes need to provide a catalyst for good deeds.

“Good Neighbours can provide a framework a whole village can get behind. It is focussed on older people, but everyone can sometimes need a little help. Sometimes you might be the person asking for help, for example you need help to reach and change a light bulb, while at other times you might be providing the help, such as baking a cake for your neighbour’s children’s school fair when their parents are busy at work.

“We hope the schemes will alleviate some of the strain on public services, help people to stay in their own homes for longer, feel part of their community and know they have people close by that they can turn to when they need some help. Good Neighbours increases a sense of collective responsibility and community spirit, which can lead on to other services and activities to the benefit of all.”

The Good Neighbours project has been backed by North Yorkshire County Council as part of its  Stronger Communities’ initiative, which has been developed to support communities to help themselves and create local solutions for services at a time of significant financial challenge for the authority.  Its vision is to have strong and vibrant communities in all parts of the county, where the skills, knowledge and capacity of those communities play a key role in the design and delivery of local services that maximise the well-being of people of all ages.

Leah said: “We aim to create 7 schemes and deliver 200 helpful actions that directly benefit older people in our communities. Action inspires action and Good Neighbours can give support in a way that will hopefully inspire communities to look out for one another in times of need.”

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Editor’s Notes

Media contact: Candice Dowson, Marketing & PR Officer, Rural Action Yorkshire tel. 0845 313 0270.

Rural Action Yorkshire

Based at Askham Bryan, near York, RAY is one of 38 Rural Community Councils in England.  It is an independent, charitable, and voluntary organisation working across rural areas of North, South and West Yorkshire, to help communities improve the quality of life for all people living and working in rural Yorkshire.

RAY enables and empowers communities to develop the confidence to help themselves, and to ensure their needs are heard by policy makers and service providers – on a local, regional and national scale. Key work includes:

*Offering support, training, events and resources on everything affecting life in a rural area

*Help with funding, running community buildings, and staying up to date with the latest legislation

*Assisting with the implementation of Community Led Plans, which identify the strengths and weaknesses of an area and plan the future of community development work.

RAY and the other 37 rural community councils across England form the national ACRE Network (Action with Communities in Rural England). Find Rural Action Yorkshire online at www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk and Twitter @RuralYorkshire