So I am a Caring Town Connector! What does that mean? I am part of the new Caring Town Information Exchange based in the Mansion on Fore Street in Totnes, a signposting service for local people around health, care and wellbeing needs.
Why are we needed? (That seems to be a common question). Who comes to see you? (Another question - but don’t worry - it is all confidential - no names or addresses or indeed anything personal about you is recorded.)
A huge variety of people come in (it’s not boring - I could chat to people all day). Those without a roof over their head who are looking for somewhere to sleep or take a shower, people who are struggling to pay their bills, those looking for help in caring for elderly parents, or people who find they have some spare time, want to volunteer in some way and are wondering how to go about it. Or perhaps they have moved to the area and are simply looking for social activities where they will meet new people.
Aren’t some of these things what Citizens Advice is here to do? Yes that’s true, and we are not replicating their service. In fact we sometimes direct people to their expert advisors for specific advice on various issues - we only signpost, we do not offer advice ourselves. We are working together to try to make sure local people know about all the local services and groups that might help them. With no forms to fill in and no waiting times (just drop-in) our service is easy to access.
If you have a service that you offer please do come in and tell us about it - flyers or a poster would be great. We are trying to glean as much information as possible about everything going on in the area (to do with health, care, wellbeing). I am amazed at how much there is. People in Totnes don’t seem to like sitting around doing nothing. From pot luck suppers to gardening for health, to walking and talking, to arts events, meditation, therapies, skill shares, business support groups, to exercise classes for anyone and everyone. It is a growing list! People are incredibly generous. The Market Place Foodbank, the Street Pastors, the Market Place Drop In, to name just a few, all trying to help - Totnesians seem to have kindness in bucket loads.
I have worked with a wide variety of people and an aware of many of the issues that can make life difficult. I have temped with mental health agencies between my more permanent jobs in the arts. It is an area that interests me in that it affects so many people who often suffer in silence. We are always happy to listen and signpost where ever possible. I have discovered listening to people who don’t feel listened to is a large part of the role - and I am always happy to do that.
So, if you have a question or need help with something for you, a friend or a neighbour perhaps, do come and see us and we will try and point you in the direction. We might not have the immediate answer - we are not all knowing, all seeing (if only - I would have bought my lottery ticket years ago) but we will do our best to find out and get back to you. If we can’t find something to help you, then we feed this information into the Caring Town project that’s looking at how to fill gaps in services.
Usually we can help, it’s the best part of the job - sending someone away with the information that can help them and potentially make a difference, however small, to their lives.
You can find us (my colleague Denise and I) at the Mansion between 10.30am and 2.30pm every day except Wednesday and Sunday. Come in and say hello. Sit down and have a chat if you feel like it. We will listen and try to help.
The Caring Town Information Exchange is a partnership between Caring Town and Totnes Town Council.
Find out more about the other work of Caring Town (a network of local organisations) at www.caringtown.org.uk