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Good Neighbour Scheme set to launch in north Norfolk town hopes to bring young and old together

PUBLISHED: 16:04 04 January 2019

North Walsham Good Neighbour Scheme has been running for three years. Photo: Paul Robinson

North Walsham Good Neighbour Scheme has been running for three years. Photo: Paul Robinson

Archant

They live close enough to hear our arguments and be kept awake by our late-night parties.

The scheme recently celebrated its third anniversary with a community get-together. Photo: Paul RobinsonThe scheme recently celebrated its third anniversary with a community get-together. Photo: Paul Robinson

But popping round to borrow a cup of sugar can often be the extent of our relationships with our closest neighbours.

And this disconnect is what the organisers of a new community initiative in Cromer are hoping to tackle, as they prepare to launch the town’s Good Neighbour Scheme later this year.

Jointly organised by Norfolk County Council (NCC) and Community Action Norfolk (CAN), it’s open to anyone wishing to volunteer or to use the service.

The scheme is intended to partner willing volunteers with those needing help with small one-off tasks, such as lifts to medical appointments, dog walks, or even simply sharing a cup of tea and a friendly chat.

A similar project has run in North Walsham for more than three years, where 84-year-old Betty Williamson has been using the scheme, since losing her car.

The retired owner of Martham residential care home, Ealing House, said: “They come and have a chat. I knew volunteer before and I really enjoy her visits.

“We’ve always got something to talk about - or someone.”

Mrs Williamson added: “I didn’t get rid of my car until a year ago.

“It was getting out and doing things myself - you don’t realise what it’s like until you give it up.”

And chairman Paul Robinson, a retired development worker and volunteer, who founded the North Walsham scheme in 2015, said: “It’s a variety of tasks we’ve been asked to do, from clearing a house or garden, if they need some help.

“The highlight is developing relationships with some of our longer users of the service.”

Mr Robinson, 70, who lives in North Walsham, added: “We held our third year anniversary social in September and had about 70 people there.”

The Cromer scheme organisers are ready to get the project off the ground, as thanks to grants from North Norfolk District Council and Cromer Town Council, the funding is already in place.

Sally Thornton, community development officer at CAN, said: “We’re keen to bring people in the community together across all the ages - there’s been a lot of focus on the elderly.”

And Fay Sheldon, development officer at NCC, said: “It helps people who are living in their own homes but may be elderly or frail or find it hard to get out or use public transport.”

How can you volunteer for or join Cromer’s Good Neighbour Scheme?

The Good Neighbour Scheme (GNS) will partner with other north Norfolk organisations.

Merchant’s Place manager, Rachel Siddell, helps operate the town’s volunteer hub.

She said: “We’re hoping we can help more with recruiting volunteers - anybody and everyone can get involved.

“There’s always someone who will have a skill even if they didn’t realise it.

“Some people are keen to volunteer regularly, but there is a need for short-term help.”

And North Norfolk Community Transport manager Claire Abbs added: “We’re looking for volunteers to do one-off drives or regular local trips. We’re also always looking for volunteers to drive our mini-buses.”

Anyone who wants to join the GNS should email sally.thornton@communityaction norfolk.org.uk or fay.sheldon @norfolk.gov.uk, or call 01362 698216 or 07450 655475.

There will also be meetings at Cromer Library at 1.30pm on Wednesday, January 30, and on Wednesday, February 20 at Merchant’s Place at 7pm.

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