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Former Voluntary Action Rutland director saddened to hear of community hub closure

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Letter of the week

I was so saddened to hear about the proposed closure of the Volunteer Centre, what was possibly the first of it’s kind in the UK. A place that would provide a variety of services for people in need, ‘Under One Roof’, ideal for a rural area, bringing Voluntary and Statutory organisations together for the benefit their clients.

What is amazing that many organisations followed the model. Rutland County Council, both councillors, senior officers were delighted with the VAR model and almost every inspection of the Council included both myself and Liz Tagg, my partner (now deceased).

John Elson's cartoon is sponsored by The Assist Group
John Elson's cartoon is sponsored by The Assist Group

The success of Voluntary Action Rutland was so great that it led to the building of ‘The Gover Centre’ to increase capacity for both the voluntary and statutory sector. The Princess Royal opened the Rutland Volunteer Centre and some years later The Gover Centre. I attended both.

I cannot emphasis enough the organisations and individuals that benefitted from VAR service over the years, there are too many to mention. VAR’s aim ‘ was that a stitch in time saves nine’ we responded instantly to requests from professionals in the health, education and social fields for requests for help for their clients. We even set up an emergency family fund, to deal with these requests.

VAR set up what was to become the largest transport scheme in the East Midlands, taking frail, older and often disabled people to essential appointments, which improved their quality of life. Demand was such that funding was successfully applied for to purchase a mini bus to meet people’s needs.

There are so many organisations that may not have become viable but for VAR’s energy, knowledge, expertise, contribution, facilities and time, often in an official capacity. These include, Jules, The Family Support Centre, Willowbrook (home for people with profound disabilities), U3A and many many more. In any community you need a catalyst that has the resources to provide support and expertise to drive a project forward, that was VAR.

I currently live in a small village and I am secretary of a small community hall. During the pandemic we lost revenue but we were able to secure grants to support us through the crisis of £13,000. Did Rutland organisations receive similar help? and did they offer it to the voluntary sector? I would like to know if this was the case.

VAR always planned on being sustainable this is the basis on which the Rutland Volunteer Centre and Gover Centre was created.

Over my many years in Rutland I met regularly both lead politicians and senior members of staff, who constantly told me how they both valued VAR and in fact were proud of it’s many accomplishments and contributions to Rutland. Part of my work was working with the prisons in Rutland, HMP Ashwell (now closed) and HMP Stocken. VAR started an innovative project to bring prisoners, due for release, into the community, they renovated peoples homes, decorated, cleaned renovated gardens, built ramps etc which enabled people to return to their home. The project was so successful that we found the funding to commission a report.

I know it’s a long saga but people need to remember to who they turned to in time of need. VAR, its board of trustees and it’s many volunteers made a huge contribution to people and organisations in Rutland over many years and it should not be forgotten.

The creation of VAR is to big for people to ignore.

Kathy Braddock

Former director of VAR

Our weekly cartoon by John Elson is sponsored by The Assist Group

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