Pride of both Torbay Communities & Torbay’s communities

Time for more boasting this week about the work of Torbay Communities across Brixham, Torquay and Paignton.

Last Friday, we celebrated our AGM in the Assembly Room at Torquay Town Hall and more than 100 people attended a showcase exhibition of many aspects of our work.

We were able to share some staggering facts, all achieved in the year April 2022 to March 2023 and some of them even surprised members of our own team.

I have written many times in this column about the efficacy of the Torbay Community Helpline, set up to tackle the effects of the COVID crisis and now the main source of advice and support for thousands of people in Torbay whether they need help with housing, adult social care, mental health or food parcels to name but a few of the services on offer.

In just 12 months, the Helpline, which is partly staffed by volunteers,  handled just short of 27,000 calls and processed a staggering 4,572 food parcels, an average of 87 per week, equating to more than 100,000 meals.

In the words of one of the call handlers: “I have seen the Helpline grow from the very beginning. It has always been a profession and well-supported service.

“Over the years, it has been a lifeline to many people. Things that may seem a small thing for some can make a huge difference to someone’s health and wellbeing. Even just a friendly voice on the end of the line can make a big difference to a person’s day.”

In the same year, our Community Builder team successfully got to grips with people cautiously coming out of the coronavirus crisis, helping 101 groups re-emerge and being instrumental in setting up 73 new ones.

They reconnected an incredible 1,189 isolated or vulnerable community members and enabled 1,384 people to participate in activities in their local area. Each and every one of our Community Builders worked with an average of 240 people at any one time.

There is a lot to be said for our Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, which has at its heart a belief that every community has what it needs if it shares what it has. Simple.

It is always difficult to estimate the financial benefits of work like ours, but a conservative estimate based on Government calculations puts the value of our community-building work at more than £9 million pounds.

On the subject of finance, our community funding and capacity building service delivered successful bids totalling a smidgeon short of the £1.5million – all money coming into and being spent in Torbay.

Ourbus, which runs two essential scheduled services in the Bay – the 61 serving Livermead and St Lukes and the 65 serving The Willows, Hele, St Marychurch, Babbacombe and Ellacombe clocked up an incredible 28,500 miles if you also include some day trips which enabled more than 800 people to get out and about.

Again, at the core of Ourbus service are volunteer drivers who in the words of one passenger “…are the lifeblood of the buses. Without them, we would be lost with no bus and not able to get into town without paying for expensive taxis.”

Where would we be without the volunteer marshals who day in, day out ensure the smooth running of the vaccination service at the Riviera Centre in Torquay where to date more than 400,000 vaccinations have been delivered?

Imagine This… a collaboration of more than 50 different organisations and groups working alongside young people to improve the lives of all growing up in the Bay worked with just short of 4,000 youngsters in the year 2022/23.

At the same time, we were working with 240 plus asylum seekers from more than 50 different countries – men, women and children, who spoke more than 100 languages. You can also add to those the 173 Ukrainians who arrived in the Bay having fled the Russian invasion of their homeland.

There are so many impressive statistics, but numbers do not tell the whole story and never will, but what they do prove is the fact that Torbay Communities is having a positive impact on so many people’s lives and that is the fact we are most proud of.

To see for yourself more about what happened here at Torbay Communities over 2022-2023, you can now get a digital copy of our Annual Report.