The Community Council of Shropshire

PUBLISHED: 19:45 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013

The Community Council of Shropshire champions the county's rural residents. In the first of a series of articles Chief Executive Julia Baron explains its vital and far-reaching remit and the people whose lives are enhanced by its work

The Community Council of Shropshire champions the county's rural residents. In the first of a series of articles Chief Executive Julia Baron explains its vital and far-reaching remit and the people whose lives are enhanced by its work

The Community Council of Shropshire (CCS) is an independent charity, established in 1961 to champion the needs of rural communities in Shropshire. CCS works with voluntary and community groups as well as individuals, especially those who are disadvantaged in some way.
To the outsider Shropshire can appear to be a rural idyll - rolling hills, stunning views, world-class quality restaurants - a perfect place for a short break or a peaceful retirement. Does Shropshire really need a Community Council? The experience of one family illustrates that it does.
Mabel lives in a small, very rural village in South Shropshire where she has spent most of her life. She grew up in the East End of London until, during the war she was swept off her feet by a handsome young solider, a farm worker who promised to return when the war was over and take her home.
Alf kept his promise and brought Mabel back to his estate cottage where they lived until Alf died a few years ago. Mabel values her independence and hopes to stay in her cottage for years to come. She is well known in the village - champion cake maker for the Women's Institute and key holder for the village hall. She is grateful for the local shop but knows that her post office is under threat of closure and, as she doesn't drive, she worries how she will cope if the shop does as well. She is also concerned about stories she has heard of an increase in crime in the area. Sometimes at night noises outside make her feel nervous although she finds it harder to hear these days and was recently referred to the hospital for a hearing aid. She also wonders how her grandson will ever be able to afford to leave home now that the house prices are rocketing.
Mabel's daughter Alice lives in a rather larger village some 10 miles away with her husband Steven and their son Jamie. Steven was badly injured in a car accident a couple of years ago which put him in a wheelchair. A few months ago Steven developed epilepsy so Alice doesn't like to leave him alone for long and recently gave up her job as an English teacher. Fortunately the insurance claim cleared their outstanding mortgage so they are coping financially but Alice misses the contact with the people she worked with and feels quite isolated at times. She stays active in village life doing occasional reading support with children at the local primary school and organising the annual village pantomime. As leading light of the drama group, she is a member of the village hall management committee, and she would like to start up a drama club for local children in the school holidays.
Jamie finished school over a year ago and since then has been unable to find a job. Jamie takes after his grandfather and wants to become a market gardener. He has recently been offered a place at his local college and a local nursery has offered work experience and potentially a part-time job. Jamie's problem is transport. Local buses don't run to a timetable which would fit in with college times and he knows if he uses Alice's car it will leave her stranded. He worries in case she needs to get his dad to a hospital urgently.

So how does the work of the Community Council help this fictitious family?

Mabel would be contacted by our Preventative Services Team and invited to attend a 'Senior Safety' day. These events advise people how to stay safe and independent in their own homes. Mabel could be offered a smoke alarm or a door chain and reassured that the fear of crime in rural areas is much higher than the reality. Mabel could attend an 'Extend' class in her local village hall. These chair-based exercises assist older people to maintain flexibility and balance reducing the likelihood of a fall. Perhaps one of our Sensory Resource Development Service volunteers will visit Mabel to make sure she adjusts to her hearing aid and doesn't abandon it in a drawer, resorting to turning the TV up instead. And as a village hall stalwart, Mabel will want to participate in the consultation process organised by our Community Regeneration Officers when the village embarks on their Parish Plan.
As a double carer, Alice can receive lots of support from our Family Carers Support Service. A visit from one of our friendly Carers Support Workers starts with a carer's assessment to establish what support Alice might need. She may be offered respite, she could join a carers' support group, get regular newsletters and other information. And Alice may be advised that she is entitled to claim additional benefits.
As a member of her village hall committee Alice will certainly come into contact with our Community Buildings Advisory Service. Perhaps she will attend the annual conference or other training events or maybe she will decide to apply for a grant to help improve the hall. Alice could join our Charity Trustee Network. Even if she can't attend meetings our full and informative newsletter will keep her up to date.
If Alice is serious about starting a drama club for children she could apply for one of several grants administered by CCS to get started. And she would also get advice about recruiting other volunteers to help her, support with developing a constitution and managing the finances.
Jamie could be referred to the Wheels to Work staff for support with a travel plan. This might include a loan of a moped or electric bike to help him to get to college.
The Community Council does all this - and more. Behind the scenes we promote the needs of rural communities and highlight issues of local of rural transport, affordable housing and access to services. To make our limited resources go as far as possible we work in partnership with others, delivering training which help people in communities to undertake projects and deliver services themselves.
From humble beginnings of one officer based above a hairdressing salon in Shrewsbury, the Community Council has grown to a staff of nearly 40 based in modern, purpose-built offices on Shrewsbury Business Park, opened by HRH The Princess Royal last October.
You can read more about CCS in future issues of Shropshire Life.

Community Council of Shropshire, 4, The Creative Quarter, Shrewsbury Business Park, Shrewsbury, tel: 01743 360641, email:

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