By Ruth Moore
Director of St. Wilfrid’s Centre
After a very difficult two years when staff worked hard to keep the Centre open for clients, things should now have returned to normal. St Wilfrid’s Centre, however, can never be described as normal. It is instead a very special place; a place where the vulnerable and socially excluded can feel safe, part of a community, supported, understood and accepted.
We have 179 current clients, (75% of them male). In the early part of this year, our referrals have doubled and the number of free meals and food parcels given out has tripled. The reasons for needing this support vary but problems receiving benefits, sleeping rough and/or no recourse to public funds remain significant factors. From December onwards, however, we saw the direct effect of people needing to pay for energy costs with their benefits instead of buying food and this had an impact on the numbers described. In the same period, 20 emergency clothing/rough sleeper packs were given out. We have also introduced ‘Free Food Fridays’ where donated foods that will expire over the weekend, or we have excess of, are offered to clients to take home.
We continue to be extremely grateful for the generous donations from parishes, groups and individuals. The number of people and organisation who completed our Reverse Advent Calendar, which are still being brought to us, was overwhelming, not only because of the food, products and cash donations, but also it really showed the level of support and interest so many people and parishes have for the Centre.
The Welfare Team continue to provide invaluable support for clients on a daily basis, with each client having a ‘named worker’ and regular contact – either in person at the Centre or by phone if they have been unable to come. They also provide a number of group activities from ‘Indoor Sports’ to Women’s group to Nature Walks.
The Workshop not only offers meaningful practical activities for clients, but it also continues to provide a valuable service making Medi-boxes and other items for a variety of organisations, while also generating money from sales to support the Centre’s work.
The introduction of our Skills for Living Programme and the appointment of a Full-time Tutor to deliver it in 2022 have been very successful with clients commenting at the most recent Praise and Grumble session how much they liked the change. Clients enjoy the broad range of activities which include, ‘Maintaining your home’, banking and finance, Communication skills, Cooking, IT Skills and safety on-line. The tutor also works with clients on our allotment, learning a variety of skills and growing fruit and vegetables that can be used in our kitchen or to make jams and/or products for our fayres throughout the year.
Other activities such as Pottery, Photography, Handicrafts and Drama remain very popular with clients.
The hard work and commitment of our many volunteers is very much appreciated with individuals giving up their time each week to support our work and make a real impact on the services we provide. We are, however, always looking to expand our excellent team of volunteers so if you do have just a few hours to spare each week, please do get in contact or look at the details on our website.
The pandemic taught us many things, some of which we would like to forget but for St Wilfrid’s Centre’s clients it also left some positives. At the clients’ request, some of the changes we had to make to keep everyone safe have remained, such as smaller numbers in the Café and Dining Room to maintain the calmness, the layout of the building, client activities and of course, plans for future developments. After 32 years as a Day Centre, we remain very optimistic about the future, including our plans for the development of a café and shop that can be open to the public, with clients playing a role in their operation. Watch out for further news about these exciting projects.