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#SmallCharityLife - one year on

Published on 19 June 2018 11:10 AM

Small Charity Week is here again. It has been a year since I celebrated my first Small Charity Week as CEO here at Age UK Sutton. Last year I shared a few thoughts about how small charities are different - and special, and now feels like a good time to reflect once more on the past twelve months for our brilliant, local charity.

Every day I feel so lucky to have found my way to Age UK Sutton - local, independent, and community based work is where my heart is. One year on, here are a few more thoughts on why small charities are so wonderful, and a whistle stop tour of some of the things we are doing to make the most of our position as a local service provider, influencer, and partner in Sutton.

You’re the ‘boots on the ground’

 As a local, independent charity, Age UK Sutton is in a special position - we have the opportunity to tailor our services to what’s really needed locally - we are the ‘boots on the ground’ delivering services to those that need them the most.

The beauty of working on a local level - in our case across the Borough of Sutton - is that you can really get to know the people you serve, and refine services in response to what they tell you. Being a small charity, we are also able to be quick in creating these changes - it can be tough having limited resources, but the upside is that decision making and adjusting what we do is fast! We’ve responded to changing needs by adjusting our opening hours, offering more services in the community, and developing new groups in areas where they were needed.

Nicola Upton making a presentation

When we’ve not been busy delivering support to older people, their families and carers, we’ve been reflecting on how we can have an even greater impact in the future. I’ve been working with our volunteers, service users, staff and trustees to develop our strategy for the next few years. We want to make Sutton a more Age Friendly place.

We know it’s vital to keep delivering great services that make a difference, and we will be working to grow and develop these further. We will also be increasing the work we do to bring about wider change - using what we learn from our own and other services to inform and advise our friends and partners on policy, planning, and decision making that affects older people in Sutton. Finally, to enable us to deliver services and influencing more effectively, we are committed to increasing our partnership work, developing relationships with a wider range of partners from other charities and community groups, local businesses, and our local council and NHS.

You get to make a difference - and see it happen

As a local charity, we are able to focus on local issues, and how we can address our borough’s unique challenges in what I tend to call ‘a Sutton-y way’ and as a brand partner of the national Age UK charity, we have the opportunity to support national campaigns, and then to identify how best to make a difference locally. We get the best of both worlds, so that national issues - like social care, loneliness - are tackled locally.

Man speaking into a microphone

In this, it is so important that older people’s voices are heard - indeed, it is part of our purpose as a local charity. Last year, we ran a hustings for older people ahead of the general election in May, and in December, Age UK Sutton was announced as the lead partner to Sutton Council, in delivering the older people’s strand of the Sutton Plan. You can see Ruth Dombey, leader of the council, talking about this here.

We’ve begun a new programme of events aimed at bringing decision makers together with the people their decisions affect - our first Age UK Sutton Forum, held in January, focused on the theme of social care. Guests, including older people from across the borough, were able to hear from and feedback to a panel of decision-makers, including senior representatives from Sutton Council and Sutton CCG. On the same day, with our partner charity Age UK, we ran a focus group on care challenges in Sutton, which has supported a national campaign. A short film and national report were produced to highlight the key issues, which you can see here.

The purpose of this work is to bring about wider change than we can achieve with service delivery. Supporting individuals with the personal challenges they face will always be a major focus for Age UK Sutton, but by working to influence changes in how services are delivered, and how older people are seen in society, we can improve later life in Sutton for everyone - and maybe even prevent some issues before they happen. It’s an ambitious goal - and one about which we are very excited. Over the next twelve months we will developing new ways to understand what matters most for Sutton’s older people and their allies, and finding new ways to influence the big decisions that affect us all.

You experience the true meaning of #StrongerTogether

If you use social media, you might have seen that I am a fan of the #StrongerTogether hashtag. 

#StrongerTogether tweets from Nicola Upton

I really believe that by working in partnership we can make a bigger difference than working alone. It’s a pleasure to work with a wide and varied range of partners. As a small charity, we benefit greatly from working in partnership, whether that’s collaborating with other organisations to share ideas and information or working with friends who raise vital funds or help us to deliver services. We are stronger together.

We greatly value our relationships with other organisations, whether that’s in co-delivery of council and NHS commissioned services for the borough, like the Advice Link Partnership Sutton (ALPS) information and advice service and Sutton Uplift, which supports mental health and wellbeing, or our role in activity like the Sutton Dementia Action Alliance and Sutton Health and Care - the joint initiative between the NHS and the Council to ensure health and social care services work more closely together. We are also proud to work with other older people focused charities, like the Sutton Seniors Forum and Alzheimer’s Society Sutton.

We’ve been lucky to work with lots of local schools, and to host social work students from London South Bank University, who contribute to our services whilst learning valuable skills with our team. For the first time this year we were the subject of a Westminster university project management assignment where a group of students raised over £1000 for us over an intense project week, and helped raise community awareness of Age UK Sutton’s work.

Last year, we held a Tea Dance to celebrate Silver Sunday, and with the support of Holiday Inn Sutton, Asda, BGL Wealth Limited, Nationwide Sutton, Tierney’s Caterers, Free Cakes 4 Kids Sutton, and Reed Business Information we had a wonderfully joyous celebration of later life.

Local businesses are a pleasure to work with, too. Our first fundraising Pub Quiz, hosted by our friends at the Slug and Lettuce Sutton, raised almost £1000 which we couldn’t have managed without the our willing supporters including HSBC, Santander, Premium Credit, Halifax (to name but a few).

Age-Friendly Sutton

Small Charity Week messages

I’ve mentioned a few times above, that we want to make Sutton a more Age Friendly place. Here at Age UK Sutton we have developed a long term plan that is focused on what we can do (ourselves and with partners) to enable older people in Sutton to be confident of services, know their rights, feel part of the community, and have their needs met. I am really excited to be leading a charity with this commitment at its heart - and I’d love you to join us in making Sutton an Age Friendly Borough.

I am really proud that we are the lead partner for the older people’s strand of the Sutton Plan, in this capacity we will be developing our partnership work further in the coming year, working together to identify practical actions we can all take to make Sutton a more Age Friendly Place.

So - this is the bit where I ask for your help - because as a small charity, we need our local community, both to spread the word that we are here for everyone, and to help us keep developing what we do, so we can make an even bigger difference.

Perhaps you would like to fundraise for us? As a small charity, we rely on local fundraising to cover some of the costs of services like befriending and advice. You could attend an event, bring an older friend or neighbour to their first information session or social group, or work with us to spread the word about Age UK Sutton’s services, and the information we provide that helps to improve later life. You could even come and work with us! We are always looking for new volunteers for a range of role and commitment levels, and right now, we are recruiting to our Help at Home service and for a couple of brand new part-time management roles

For me, the true joy of working in a local charity is the opportunity to be a part of the community, and to see, everyday, the difference our work makes. I would love to hear from you - what do you think could make Sutton a more Age Friendly Place? What would you like to see Age UK Sutton doing more of? You can email me, tweet me, or use our online contact form to share your feedback.

I look forward to continuing this journey to making Sutton a more Age Friendly place, with you.

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