Left, Working Together event organiser Jamie Buckley from East Devon District Council with Caroline Retter from Devon Freewheelers, right

Volunteers make a difference and are essential for helping ensure quality of life for many people

Over 100 representatives of voluntary organisations and community groups attended East Devon District Council’s annual ‘Working Together for the Future of East Devon’ event, held at Knowle, Sidmouth on Friday 29 September 2017. The event broadly aims to improve communications between the voluntary and statutory sectors.

Working Together is the brainchild of Councillor Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities and was organised by Jamie Buckley, East Devon’s Engagement and Funding Officer. Both Jamie and Cllr Elson were delighted with the high level of attendance from voluntary organisations, community groups and town and parish councils who turned out in force to support this free event.

Volunteers are becoming essential as a means of helping ensure that people have the best quality of life they can, particularly with more people wishing to be cared for at home. Volunteers can help in so many way, such as making a phone call once a week, providing accessible transport, visiting regularly to listen, chat or cook an extra meal. Whatever support they offer, all volunteers make a difference and ensure that people’s lives are enriched and that they are not forgotten.

Delegates were able to find out more about the excellent work being carried out by volunteers in East Devon at Broadclyst Community Farm from Chairman John Smye. Chief Executive Dan Lavery told delegates how Devon Freewheelers obtain and retain their very active volunteers who support the NHS by delivering essential samples, blood, donor breast milk and medication to hospitals throughout Devon.

An update on changes in the local health sector, particularly around community hospitals, was given by Adel Jones, Integration Director of the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

Sarah Reeves from East Devon’s Council for Voluntary Service talked about how to develop resilient communities and gave hints and tips on how voluntary organisations could keep going.

Also speaking at the event, giving delegates useful updates and advice, were Lucy O’Loughlin, Consultant in Public Health for Devon County Council, who updated attendees on Cranbrook’s Healthy New Town project and Dan Barton from DYS Space Ltd, who advised on how voluntary organisations could keep going by delivering in different ways. Local social enterprise organisation, Cosmic, from Honiton, talked about how voluntary groups can use digital means to support their activities and goals. 

During the afternoon, the local member of parliament, Sir Hugo Swire, dropped by for a catch up with the voluntary organisations taking part in the event.

Delegates also brought with them items of non-perishable food, which were collected by a local foodbank for handing out to needy families in the area.