TCDT – Bringing People Together, The Torbay Way!

By Simon Sherbersky, who has led the Torbay Community Development Trust since its inception, steps down this week. Here he reflects on that journey.

Well, what a journey it has been and what a privilege to have led the Trust over the last nine years. I can say, with complete conviction that I am extremely proud of what we have all achieved together in Torbay in that time.

It’s been incredibly challenging and we have had the added stress of COVD-19 over the last two and bit years, but what I have witnessed has been exactly what the title implies.

We have seen everyone come together to get through this latest challenge and the emergence of the Torbay Community Helpline, which has helped almost 8,000 people so far.

What is unique about the Torbay way is recognising the appetite, time and skills that people across Torbay have offered to support each other. We have seen people requesting help but at the same time offering support to others.

More than 1,700 residents and more than 100 voluntary groups and organisations have come together in one coordinated support system, providing an ever-increasing range of support for those in need, from practical tasks to financial advice and more.

This built on five years of the Ageing Well Torbay programme, which was set up to address social isolation and loneliness for people over the age of 50.

It also incorporated the skills and resources of the 50 Imagine this … partners, supporting children, young people, parents and carers; saw the creation of several new networks/partnerships, including the Standing Tall partnership of 18 organisations supporting victims of domestic abuse, the Torbay Advice Partnership, helping people with information, advice and with financial issues and fuel poverty.

The Torbay Food alliance also brought 12 foodbanks together to better meet the rising demand for food parcels, the church networks across Torbay joined in and supported so many people, the partnership working between all of this and Torbay Council, and Health and care colleagues.

I’ve been working in Torbay for more than 20 years and for much of that time people talked about Torbay in negative terms relative to other areas, but not anymore.

We are now the envy of other places around us and a national example of really effective partnership working. Our Torbay Community Helpline model incorporating all of the above is now becoming the new front door for adult social care in Torbay, recognising the value and resources of residents and voluntary and community groups and social enterprises.

As I step aside as the lead officer at Torbay Community Development Trust, I do so in the knowledge that we are once again great and recognised for it. The value of our strengths or asset-based approaches has enabled a coming together on a scale that other areas can only wish for – long may it continue!

There are so many stories of peoples` lives changing for the better and we had the privilege of showcasing some of the volunteers at our AGM on Monday evening, which you can see here and that is what it is all about. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Time and again, we heard the word pride from the volunteers who have stepped up to marshal at the vaccination centres, acted as rapid responders – shopping and collecting prescriptions – became telephone befrienders, organised their neighbours into small groups to support each other, and staffed and organised the foodbanks.

We heard the same from volunteers who have trained up to enable them to help their peers with their finances and from a bus driver that oversees the mobile community centres that are better known as the 61 and 65 services in Torquay and from the specialist befrienders who have helped people through crises in their mental health.

They are very rightly proud of what they and their neighbours have achieved and they absolutely deserve the thanks and admiration of us all.

We are very lucky to live in a place like Torbay, where friends and neighbours look out for each other. That is a quality that is to be envied.

With love and pride – Simon Sherbersky