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 jacqui@wlcvs.org

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 – pblythin@activelancashire.org.uk

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.


West Lancs Together: Helping vulnerable people

When the Covid-19 pandemic caused the country to grind to a halt, West Lancs CVS joined with West Lancashire Borough Council, and all other local health and community partners to launch a new local support system called West Lancs Together to offer support to those most vulnerable within the borough.

West Lancs Together provides a free helpline from West Lancashire Borough Council to support anyone feeling vulnerable or isolated at this time.  This helps to connect people to the right support whether they need help with daily tasks, such as getting food, collecting prescriptions or a friendly voice over the phone.

Since being set up in April, West Lancs Together volunteers have stepped up to assist with food and medication delivery, providing support and advice or simply being a friendly listening ear over the phone.

Greg Mitten, Chief Officer of West Lancs CVS says:

“West Lancs Together reflects the incredible way the public, private, voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise agencies can come together quickly to work alongside our community in order to provide support to those most vulnerable during the pandemic. West Lancs CVS has been privileged to witness, be part of and support this great wave of voluntary endeavour which has come together during the COVID-19 crisis and demonstrated once again the key role volunteers play in our community”.

Here’s what Meg Pugh from West Lancs CCG said about the wonderful community spirit of West Lancashire:

“The pandemic has brought about collaborative working like never before and the West Lancs spirit has shone through across the community. Despite the extremely challenging time we find ourselves in, we have been blessed with many volunteers who have given up their time away from their own homes and families to give back to neighbours and strangers with life’s essentials such as food and medicine. While we remain in a state of emergency and recognise this hard work continues, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to volunteers and to anyone who has expressed kindness to others as this time”.

The West Lancs Together support line number is 0800 616 667. Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 7am-7pm.

(This offer of help and support is for those people who have been identified by the NHS as being at risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19 and have been asked to isolate themselves (referred to nationally as ‘shielding’) for a period of at least 12 weeks as well as any other vulnerable person in the borough).

Parbold winners – Queens Award for Voluntary Service

The recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service are announced every year on 2 June 2020, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.

We are very pleased to announce that two West Lancashire organisations have won this prestigious award – Parbold Douglas Music Society and Parbold Picture House. This is fantastic news for those organisations and their volunteers as well as for West Lancashire – well done!

Here’s what Parbold Picture House feel about their valuable volunteers:

Clare Gillard, Recorder for Parbold Picture House and Treasurer of Parbold Douglas Music and Michael Bonsall, Chairman of Parbold Douglas Music and Convener of the Picture House Film Crew say:

“We are very proud of our volunteers and the marvellous positive spirit and commitment with which they work, solve problems and coordinate their efforts. We think it is highly extraordinary for two awards to be made independently to groups working in the same venue. We have known for some time that our volunteers are exceptional people, from all walks of life, from sixth former to octogenarian, some working, some retired, who love music or film and sharing their enthusiasm with others. Volunteers are always welcome and immediately feel at home in the comradeship that has been built up. The audiences are very appreciative of the positive contribution our volunteers make to their lives.”

Derek Thompson, volunteer with Parbold Picture House also said:

“I am extremely proud and honoured that what we all do for the community has been honoured with this QAVS award. Apart from the virus, nothing stops us!”

Benefits of volunteering

In this year’s Volunteers’ Week, we would also like to focus on some of our amazing organisations across West Lancashire, who rely upon volunteers to continue the vital work they do for the community – not just in these unprecedented times but year after year.

Each year we hold an annual volunteer awards evening in partnership with West Lancs Borough Council and this event provides a great opportunity for organisations to thank their volunteers. As this is currently not possible, we would like to share some quotes from some of our member organisations about the massive impact that volunteers have on their day to day work.

Our first organisation is Home-Start – a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times.   Homestart says:

‘Volunteers provide friendship, mentoring, solutions and support to families and are often there when no one else is.  They are the backbone of our family support service and a lifeline for families.’

Tanhouse Morris Dancers has been running in Skelmersdale for 50 years, a major achievement in itself!.  Angela Eadie says

‘Volunteers are our lifeblood – we would not run without them as a non-profit group.  Thank you to them all!  Most of our volunteers are dancers, ex dancers or relatives.  As a volunteer myself, seeing the dancers thrive is a huge reward’.

West Lancs Ark offers a free advice and advocacy service to members of the community who maybe homeless, unemployed,ex-offenders or substance misusers.  West Lancs Ark says:

‘It’s hard to find the words to explain how much we value our volunteers.  They work hard, give their time, energy and skills to support both us as an organisation and our service users.  Thank you in not enough!’


Not only do volunteers provide massive help to the organisations they volunteer with, they also get a lot out of the experience personally.  Debbie is one of our CVS volunteers working with the Social Prescribing Service.  She says:

‘Volunteering has brought a new dimension to my life.  After leaving my paid job, I felt detached and a bit useless as I like to be involved and interact with people.  Volunteering here has brought purpose back to my life.  I feel I can make a small contribution and that’s all we can do – one phone call may seem like a drop in the ocean but the ocean is made up of many drops of water….’

Finally, a volunteer at local advice organisation SWILCAN echoes Debbie’s thoughts about volunteering:

‘Volunteering for an organisation like SWLICAN allows me to ensure anyone in a similar situation to myself never has to go through the isolation, fear and hopelessness you feel when trying to navigate the welfare system we are faced with.

This has morphed somewhat over the years to being an integral part of who I am. The small contribution I make has allowed me to grow as a human, to feel better about myself and to know I am making a difference – something I would never have achieved if I had not taken the plunge and made volunteering a large part of my life’


To all volunteers past, present and future – we THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!

And don’t forget that if you are a volunteer involving organisation and you would like some support with actively recruiting new volunteers, we have a fully accredited Volunteer Centre that can support you.

Please email vc@wlcvs.org for more information or see our website:  http://www.wlcvs.org/homepage/services/volunteering/