Keeping on Caring

Caring Together’s manager notes the organisation still remains a focal means of socializing among the older residents of the community despite the tougher economic landscape.” John O’Dwyer

John O’Dwyer is a part of the four people team aside from its volunteers that work for Caring Together in the Woodhouse community centre. With over a decade of experience in Leeds’ other locally known non-profits, John manages the daily activities of the charity as it provides support and advice to its 300 odd members.

The organisation was established during the 1990s, largely by the older people in the areas that were aware of the need for an organisation of its kind. Originally steered by members of the old Methodist church, the organisation now involves more members within the Woodhouse and Little London community. When asked John O’Dwyer said: “As it stands, the type of support that it offers couldn’t operate without the older volunteers that grew up in the area who are aware of the needs and issues that their neighbours have and form the bedrock of the organisation. It is very much community led.”

The last few years has seen voluntary organisations like Caring Together make changes to the service they offer due to fewer funds. Figures from the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust show that over the past 5 years, local authority spending on care for older and disabled people has fallen by 11%.

For Caring Together, this in reality has meant more competition for funding in new projects and areas of development.

“I’d like to see it more stable financially. Be successful in its applications for funds. More ideas for community development, working closer with other local organisations like schools,’’ said John.

As a recognized organisation, Caring Together offers various activities that allow members to choose their preferred level of involvement, from Craft groups, weekly exercise classes and memoir groups for its older members. It has most recently collaborated with the University of Leeds and the Wordsworth trust on a project called ‘poetry in woodhouse’ exploring words and poetry in the community.

“We recognize that some people benefit from having an activity run the same way over a period of time. While others like to try new things and not necessarily the same thing for months.”

Its spontaneity and variety in activities help attract a diverse group. John describes the group saying: “It’s as a person growing old disgracefully. It has its own character, history and identity.”

By Anne Olaleye