Trustees’ Week – Nov 2nd-6th

As Trustee Week begins, voluntary groups and charities in West Lancashire are looking for special volunteers to help lead their organisations.

Trustees Week (2-6 November 2020) is an annual event to highlight the great work that trustees do and encourage people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.

There are different roles in running a charity including the Treasurer who has financial and fundraising skills, the Secretary who provides organisational and administration skills and Chairperson who manages meetings and provides leadership. Between them and the Board of Trustees they make important decisions about running the charity.

West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) currently has 12 opportunities to become a trustee for a diverse range of local charities. It also has over 200 other volunteering opportunities available.

To find out about these roles, or to volunteer as a trustee, contact the Volunteer Centre at CVS on 01695 733737 or email:

Greg Mitten, CVS Chief Officer says:

“A special thanks to all our West Lancashire CVS trustees past and present and to all charity trustees in West Lancs, Lancashire, the North West and beyond.  Your voluntary roles have always been essential and never more so than in the pandemic.”

Find out more about Trustees’ Week 2020 here:

Congratulations to West Lancs Queens Birthday Honours Award recipients

West Lancs CVS would like to join with our voluntary sector colleagues in offering our congratulations to Margaret Highton from Evermoor Community Hub and Stella Connell from The Birchwood Centre for the well-earned and great honour they have received in the latest Queens Birthday Honours Awards.

Margaret Highton was given a British Empire Medal for her work as director of Evermoor Hub, helping people in Skelmersdale.

Chief Executive of the Birchwood Centre, Stella Connell, OBE has been recognised for services to homeless and vulnerable people (based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire).

Celebrating West Lancs CVS Social Prescribing Service

Today is #NationalLinkWorkerDay which showcases and celebrates the impact of Social Prescribing Link Workers and West Lancs CVS would like to offer a huge thank you to its Social Prescribing Service team.

The service which initially began in August 2018 as a small-scale pilot for the Skelmersdale area, has now expanded and covers the whole of West Lancs.

The service has proved invaluable during the pandemic, offering vital support for the most vulnerable people in West Lancashire. The team has focused on delivering support to those who are shielding or are considered ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ during lockdown. Even though face to face contact has proven a challenge, the team have risen to this and continue to take referrals from GPs.

Recognising that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health (King’s Fund 2020).

West Lancs Social Prescribing aims to connect people back into their community.​

Greg Mitten, Chief Officer of West Lancs CVS said: “Thank you to all our West Lancs Social Prescribing Team, it’s been a privilege to witness how hard everyone has worked from the start of the pilot in Skelmersdale, through to the extension of the service across West Lancashire and most recently in their work during the pandemic alongside NHS , local authority and voluntary sector colleagues to support the ‘shielded’ members of our community. The voluntary sector, CCG Commissioners, GP practices, NHS and Local Authorities are working in partnership to maximise the positive benefits Social Prescribing supports. Social prescribing supports these benefits because it recognises the gifts, skills and capacities of individuals and the power of connected communities”.

To find out more about the service, check out our Social Prescribing page or contact the Development & Strategic Lead, Jacqui Sutton on

Volunteers step up for medicine delivery

When national lockdown started in March, one of the immediate challenges in West Lancs was to get essential medications out to people who were shielding or vulnerable.  It was a challenge taken on by staff from West Lancs Community Leisure who, having been furloughed from their leisure centre jobs, stepped up to become medication delivery volunteers.

Mark from Serco says ’24 staff from West Lancashire Community Leisure volunteered to deliver much needed vital medical supplies to residents in West Lancashire whilst the leisure centres were closed and the staff are on furlough. A massive thank you to everyone involved’.

Later in the Spring, as lockdown began to ease and it was apparent that the Serco staff would need to return to their work at local leisure centres, West Lancs CVS took on this vital role and stepped in to recruit more volunteers to take their place.

In anticipation of the switchover and to ensure a smooth transition, CVS recruited a total of 36 volunteers during May, from which 18 were trained up online by the CCG and then DBS checked by CVS.  Initially they started working alongside the Serco staff in June so they were fully ready to take over when Serco staff had to return to their jobs in July.

Jill Bradley, Operations Manager at CVS says,

‘the Volunteer Medicine Delivery work is a shining example of what can be achieved when voluntary, public and private sectors work together in conjunction with the wonderful volunteers of West Lancashire.  We are proud to have taken on this essential role and to continue Serco’s work of coordinating and managing the volunteer team throughout July and August’.

Jan Howard, Volunteering Officer at the CVS’s Volunteer Centre says:

‘We were delighted to be able to help and to see the fantastic commitment and skills of West Lancs volunteers put to such good use.  They rose to the challenge magnificently – as they always do!’

Sport England Tackling Inequalities Funding

From Active Lancashire:

The recent lockdown measures have led to some challenges for some people to be physically active and there is evidence of increasing inequalities in participation relating to certain groups of people. Sport England is keen to tackle these emerging inequalities and as such have made some funding available for community organisations to help keep people physically active. West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust has kindly agreed to match this Sport England funding to provide additional support to help get the communities of West Lancashire active. As a result of this, Active Lancashire is seeking applications from community organisations that can help get or keep people from the following groups physically active:

  • BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic)
  • People with a disability or long term health condition
  • People with low levels of income

In partnership with Sport England, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust, West Lancashire Borough Council and West Lancashire CVS, Active Lancashire are looking to distribute £14,250 in grants to community groups that can engage the target groups in physical activity.

The funding is a ‘here and now’ fund to keep people in any of the groups above physically active or help get people that aren’t currently doing any activity active. Organisations applying for funding should therefore be in a position to start project delivery within a week or two of a funding decision. The funding is designed to recognise the challenges that some organisations might be currently facing and as such is not just about funding new activities. Organisations that are currently delivering physical activity, who are facing financial challenges due to the current circumstances can apply for funding to support and maintain existing activity.

Applications for funding should be needs led and clearly demonstrate the requirement for the funding and how it will benefit one of the specified target groups.

Funding can be used for a range of things including staff costs, training costs, rent/facility hire, utility costs, IT costs and Insurance.

In order to apply organisations must have a recognised constitution in place and be not for profit. Private or for profit organisations and sole traders are not eligible to apply for this funding.

Organisations can apply for funding from a minimum of £50 up to a maximum of £10,000. We would however encourage organisations not to apply for more than £3,000, so that we can fund a range of projects across the area and provide a variety of support to the communities of West Lancashire.

The deadline for applications is Monday 20 July 2020 and we hope to inform successful applicants by Monday 3 August 2020.

If you would like to make an application to this fund, please complete the application form which can be found by following this link:…

Please direct any questions regarding this funding opportunity to Paul Blythin at Active Lancashire –

Black Lives Matter

At West Lancs CVS, we support an equal society for all. We know that more needs to be done to create a diverse and inclusive society and that’s why we will continue to work with colleagues from across all sectors and with people living in our communities to stand up for what we believe in. Our thoughts are with the family of George Floyd and with every person and community impacted by prejudice. We stand against racism, now and forever.

As part of our work around equality and diversity, we link with the Lancashire Association of CVSs, which includes the Lancs BME Network and we will be joining with members to think about how we take this work forward.

West Lancs CVS team



Photo credit: “Black Lives Matter” by seikoesquepayne is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mary Walker – a lifetime of work and volunteering for the voluntary sector

We are very sad to join with The Birchwood Centre today to announce that Mary Walker passed away peacefully at home over the weekend.

Mary had been a long-term trustee of West Lancs CVS, The Birchwood Centre, Disability Advice West Lancs and many other West Lancs charities over many years. Mary’s contribution to our sector as a volunteer and trustee followed on from her career working to support communities in different parts of the world before taking up roles with the CVS and other projects in West Lancs.

Anita Abram, former West Lancs CVS Trustee colleague of Mary recalled,

“I never knew anyone more committed to the voluntary sector, to the communities she worked with around the world and to volunteering in her retirement. I don’t recall a time when Mary wasn’t around doing her bit for West Lancashire and for Skelmersdale, never afraid to stand up for what she believed to be right. She will be very much missed and talked about for years to come!”

In remembering Mary, Stella Connell of the Birchwood Centre said,

“Mary will be sadly and dearly missed by all her friends and colleagues at Birchwood, she was an inspiration to all she came into contact with and to me personally. We will remember Mary with fondness and for her tireless energy and lifelong commitment in her endeavour to make the world a better place”

At this point no details are known about the funeral arrangements for Mary. The COVID-19 crisis may limit the number who can attend, however, Greg Mitten, Chief Officer of West Lancs CVS, and Stella Connell, Chief Executive of The Birchwood Centre, would like to invite people to a future event to be planned for less restrictive times as ‘a celebration of Mary’s work’ alongside that of the other VCFS staff and volunteers we have lost in recent times.

Refugee Week 2020

June 15th – 21st is Refugee Week 2020, so we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate some stories from one of our own projects, Skem International and to hear about the difference that this project has made to the lives of some of our West Lancs asylum seekers and refugees.

When the Home Office started placing refugees and asylum seekers in Skelmersdale in 2015, people from across the town sprang into action. Lots of individuals also got in touch to see how they could help and this groundswell of support grew into a network. Many of the agencies worked in partnership with local people to organise welcoming activities, and weekly drop in support sessions. This grew into a new organisation called Skem International which runs two weekly support and guidance sessions for the families and individuals currently living in Skelmersdale.

In addition to support by local residents, organisations have been instrumental in helping to welcome and support the new arrivals. Cerys Smye-Rumsby at West Lancs CVS has worked with the new arrivals from the beginning,  and The Junk Food Cafe, Faiths4Change, the Sewing Rooms, and Ormskirk Clocktower Rotary have all been heavily involved. Skelmersdale Library has also provided a warm welcome and meeting place for the new residents.

This week, some of the asylum seekers have told us what Skem International has meant to them:

I appreciate Skem International for their help and kindness they have shown me and others. I have never felt nostalgic about my home country since I have known Skem International. They have helped me a lot when I was potentially homeless and provided me with peace. These drop-ins provide one to one support and an opportunity to simply talk with others. For me they are like a family.
Soroush, from Iran

Nat Neal, from Eritrea, says:

The people in Skem International are very supportive and motivational to asylum seekers and refugees. I had been in Skelmersdale for more than two years and during that time I had a lot of home office cases, court appointments as well as interviews. With the help of the volunteers and the caseworker, I passed those times. I would like to say ‘thank you’ people of Skem International!

And Peiman, from Iran agrees:

Soon after I came to Skem in 2016, I met these wonderful people who organise run the Skem International Group. They’ve been extremely friendly and kind to me. I see them as my second family because they have helped me through a lot of hard times!
I could say I’m very lucky to have met these people who have supported me in every way they could, and I’m glad I could be a part of this group and support other refugees. I will never forget all the things they’ve done for me and will always appreciate it. Thank you and God bless.

Matthew is one of the local volunteers for Skem International. Here’s what Matthew has to say about his work:

I am a volunteer assistant caseworker who serves people seeking asylum currently living in West Lancashire. I am not a solicitor, nor a legal representative. I’m neither a psychologist nor a social worker. What do I do? I offer friendship, counsel and time to help people seeking asylum negotiate this part of their journey to find a place of safety and refuge in the UK. Many new arrivals understand little English and have no knowledge of how to access legal, health, or education services. The hostile environment which many refugees encounter can be very dispiriting. I use my privilege and skills to advocate on their behalf and help them to access the support they are due.

Finally, in this Refugee Week 2020, we round off our look at Skem Interational with this message from Cerys and Lawrence Smye-Rumsby:

We are sad that we cannot be together during this Refugee week due to national lockdown. We are still connecting with asylum seekers and refugees remotely. We are extremely grateful to our many volunteers for their commitment during the last 5 years. Special thanks go to both the library and the Ecumencial Centre for their support. We look forward to reconnecting with everyone in Skem International as soon as it’s safe to do so.