From line dancing to curling, hot soup to hot water bottles, voluntary groups across south west London are running welcoming events thanks to the Winter Engagement Fund – a small grants programme aimed at spreading vital health information and boosting wellbeing.
The local NHS has awarded 94 grants of a few hundred pounds each through the Winter Engagement Fund. The fund supports health services under pressure during the colder months by helping grass roots organisations reach out to their members. The groups share information about accessing urgent care and getting all the seasonal vaccines their members and their families are eligible for – like measles, flu and Covid-19.
During winter, even though it’s cold outside, we like to bring people together. So they have a place to go to make friends and look after themselves.”
Grants are aimed at groups whose members are disproportionately affected by health inequalities – unequal access to and outcomes from healthcare depending on your life circumstances.
The Winter Engagement Fund events help tackle loneliness by getting people out of the house and meeting others in their neighbourhood. Many include hot meals and the chance to spend time in a warm space.
During the events, organisers talk to people about getting support locally. This includes when to visit community pharmacies or use NHS 111 and how to access vaccinations for Covid-19 and flu. There’s advice on finding early support for mental health issues and how to download and use the NHS app. All of this can alleviate pressure on NHS services.
All events have been designed by the groups, based on their knowledge of what will interest people and maximise attendance. Some projects, funded last winter have been successful once more including Merton’s Attic Theatre Company, while other groups have received grants for the first time.
Andrea Colquhoun is chair of Fusion Merton Multicultural Group, which is organising Zumba, Scottish and line dancing sessions in Colliers Wood. She said: “During winter, even though it’s cold outside we like to bring people together. So they have a place to go to make friends and look after themselves.
“We try dance from different cultures. It’s good for wellbeing and people enjoy themselves. We have 70 members now. We’re not paid, all volunteers, so the grant has helped us put on the event and we were able to share information about winter vaccination too.”
We hope to encourage dialogue and promote better health outcomes and emotional wellbeing within our community.”
Croydon organisation Club Soda is running magazine, podcast and photography sessions where people with learning disabilities can share stories related to health.
Says Olly Pipper from Club Soda: “By intertwining engagement with local health services, empowering storytelling through multimedia, and fostering skill development in photography, we hope to encourage dialogue and promote better health outcomes and emotional wellbeing within our community.”
Events taking place as a result of the winter engagement fund
- The Holistic Wellbeing Club in Croydon is running a safe space for
men to get emotional support.
- Croydon BME Forum is holding discussions about winter and will deliver home care packs with hot water bottles, thermal gloves, blankets and packet soups for people struggling to keep warm.
- Guiding Hands Organisation is putting on pamper sessions for mums – of all ages.
- Croydon’s Ukrainian Community Centre ran a singing workshop where participants learn traditional songs from Ukraine and the UK.
- Korean Senior Citizens UK is running regular folk dancing lessons for people over 65 aimed at improving mental and physical health.
- Namaste Kingston is organising sessions that combine yoga and mindfulness with cost-of-living advice for women.
- Kingston Churches Action is putting on a winter night shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
- Friends of Hillcross is offering family breakfasts with fruit, pastries and hot drinks to children aged three to 11 and their carers.
- Commonside Trust in Pollards Hill is offering a weekly movie and munch evening providing a warm space, a hot meal and family entertainment.
- Five Aside Theatre is holding storytelling, physical theatre and movement events to celebrate black British culture for participants of different generations.
- Wimbledon Guild’s New Age Kurling sessions for people aged 50+ are an adapted version of the sport of curling and a sociable way to improve fitness and coordination.
- Richmond Mind will hold sessions featuring mindfulness, around food, yoga and sport.
- A pub lunch for carers to have a break, socialise and find out about health services is being organised by the borough’s carers centre.
- The EAL Friendship group with put on coffee mornings in different locations including a walk and talk in Kew Gardens.
- Gateway Club has a winter wellness evening with music, dancing and fruit snacks.
- Sutton’s Asian sports and cultural club will host a community event promoting participation in regular sport and physical activities.
- Sutton Women’s Centre will run SOUPFEST ‘24 – the chance to enjoy a hearty bowl of soup and get information about staying safe and well.
- Men in Shades peer support group from Sutton Vision brings together men with sight loss to tackle loneliness.
- Homestart Sutton is delivering lunch and play sessions for up to 50 families of under-fives, offering hot food, a warm space and cost-of-living advice.
- Wandsworth charity Share Community will deliver a New Year New Start project to help disabled adults identify how they can stay healthy in 2024.
- Women of Wandsworth is putting on intergenerational tea parties at sheltered housing units bringing together older people and primary school pupils.
- The Furzedown Project organises flower arranging for older people as well as sessions focussing on memory and preventing falls.
- Zion Community Seniors is organising short walks for members followed by the chance to explore new hobbies.