Suffolk AcreSuffolk ACRE launched its Good Neighbour Scheme in July 2003 as a way of bringing voluntary help to Suffolk villagers who were in need of a variety of small services, from being given a lift occasionally to having smoke alarms checked and light bulbs replaced.

Gavin Hodge was appointed as Good Neighbour Scheme Co-ordinator in July 2003 and has helped develop all 16 current Good Neighbour Schemes (GNS) around the county, but there are currently none in Waveney although promising work is under way at Beccles and Oulton Broad North.

Good Neighbour SchemeFor each scheme a team of volunteers is raised to offer a variety of help, principally to the elderly and vulnerable, although any resident can use the scheme. The services offered include befriending the elderly and the lonely; giving lifts especially to doctors’ surgeries and hospital appointments; minor domestic repairs especially checking smoke alarms and changing light bulbs; help with filling forms and advocacy; help with pets especially during a resident’s stay in hospital, and possibly a one-off tidy up of a garden that had become an embarrassment to its owner.

All the services are offered free with the exception of giving lifts for which the driver is compensated for his/her running costs by the client, usually at 35 pence per mile.

Mobile phone
Each scheme revolves around its own mobile phone, which is held in turn by a core group of volunteers who match the need of a caller to a volunteer who has offered to help in that particular way. It is a system which spreads the load and does not put pressure on any volunteer to do everything on the list.

Good Neighbour SchemeEarly on in the life of the Good Neighbour Scheme Gavin developed a GNS Information Pack as a toolkit that would help villages launch their own scheme, and provide guidelines for volunteers. Gavin sits in with steering group meetings to help set up each scheme. After set-up each scheme runs its own affairs via its own steering group, and Suffolk ACRE hosts regular GNS network forums to help share good practice.

The starting point for each scheme is a simple single-sheet questionnaire which assesses the level of need, enables people to say which type of help they need, and raises a team of potential volunteers.

If you would like to know more then please contact
Gavin Hodge on 01473 242538
or email to
[email protected]

Gavin Hodge: Good Neighbour Scheme Co-ordinator