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Colchester Communities Can help vulnerable residents stay well this winter

Date published: 22 January 2018

This winter, local residents and organisations across Colchester are pulling together to help thousands of vulnerable people through the colder months, supported by funding from the NHS.

The new 'Colchester Communities Can' project, running from now until 31 March, gives extra support, provisions and advice to those who are in need or isolated during the winter - and there are plenty of opportunities for local people to get involved.

Led by Colchester Borough Council and independent charity Community360, the project is delivered by the One Colchester Partnership and supported by £30,000 of NHS funding. This is part of a wider package of emergency funding which the North Essex Clinical Commissioning Group has received to help reduce the high demand on Colchester General Hospital this winter.

Colchester Communities Can is based at a pop-up shop in Unit 81, Culver Street East, Colchester, CO1 1LF. From 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, anyone can visit the pop-up shop for advice and information on volunteering. Individuals and families in need will have access to support and emergency winter packs, which includes warm clothing.

A programme of activities is being run so that users of the shop can socialise, learn skills and access community services. Not everyone in need will be able to attend the shop, so project staff and volunteers will be out and about visiting individuals and communities across the borough to deliver packs, offer support and signpost people to services.

The project brings together the efforts of volunteers from all over Colchester. Donations of warm clothing, especially coats, hats, gloves, scarves and blankets, are welcomed. A number of voluntary roles are open, from helping at the pop-up shop and distributing packs to more regular social contact and befriending.

The scheme also supports the aims of Livewell Colchester, a campaign which helps to support residents to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Isolation can be a major issue for some during winter. As part of the Colchester Communities Can project, people across the borough are urged to look out for others in their neighbourhood. Regular contact with others can be a vital support through the colder months, and a short visit to a vulnerable friend, relative or neighbour can make all the difference.

Cllr Tina Bourne, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, said: "Nobody should be left isolated or in danger as a result of cold temperatures and darker days. The funding provided for this project by NHS England will help us and our partners to create a lasting community support network for those most in need, aiding their physical, emotional and mental health.

"Colchester has a fantastic community spirit. Through this project, we can really highlight this and help people living alone to feel more supported by those around them. If you know someone who could be more at risk in winter, don't be afraid to pay them a visit - even a five-minute chat where you also check on heating levels, food and security can make a profound difference."

Tracy Rudling, CEO of Community360 and Chair of the One Colchester Partnership, said: "We are delighted to be able to work with such a fantastic range of partners to pull together a wide range of resources and opportunities for residents in Colchester at what can be a challenging time of year. We have been overwhelmed by the response from organisations who are identifying people who will benefit from the project or who want to contribute time, equipment or skills.

"Lion Walk Shopping Centre have supported us greatly by offering us the space to have a central base for all of the activities that the One Colchester partnership will undertake. We are now seeking volunteers to take on some exciting roles as a part of the project and would welcome calls or emails from anyone who is interested in getting involved."

Sam Hepplewhite, Chief Officer at North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "We are delighted to have been allocated this money and feel it will have a significantly positive effect on vulnerable people in the town. Winter months can be a particularly harrowing time for many people and cold or freezing conditions can have a bad effect on many peoples' health, especially if they live with a long-term condition.  As a local health and care system, we need to continue to ensure that vulnerable people are best supported."

To find out more about the project or local community services, or to volunteer, call the Colchester Community Can hotline 9am - 5pm on 0800 7311 655. All volunteering roles can also be found at

More information about winter wellbeing can be found at

Look out for updates on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ColCommunitiesCan.