Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?
Age UK Wolverhampton was set up over 70 years ago and works to promote the well-being of all older people in the area and help to make later life a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. I joined two years ago, initially as interim CEO, but am still here and enjoying being part of the ongoing developments and growth.
We provide a range of services and are always looking at adding more to meet needs. Our core service is our Information and Advice telephone helpline and provides a place for older people to contact who have nowhere else to turn, as well as a lot of other varied help. This includes benefits checks, signposting and general information. We also provide Friendship Groups, Telephone Support Calls, Handyperson, Tai Chi, Craft Groups, Comfort Dolls for people with dementia, Home Energy Checks and Daytime Dance Clubs.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I hope it’s fair to say that I have led the recent transformation of Age UK Wolverhampton from facing uncertainty as it came out of Covid, into an organisation with a bright and positive future, having adapted our business model in response to major environmental shifts.
This has included widening our focus to recognise older people as being an asset who have an active part to play in maintaining their usefulness and sense of purpose, and slowing their decline and dependency. On a day to day basis, seeing over eighty older people regularly enjoying themselves dancing and singing at our Daytime Dance Clubs really feels like I’ve achieved something great.
What is your experience of support received from WVCA?
I have worked at a CVS in the past, and know that they are crucial to the Voluntary Sector. Very early on in my post I made contact with WVCA and met with Ian. Just being able to connect with the sector in this way when facing multiple challenges is of great value.
The information that I received quickly helped me orient myself and ensure that Age UK Wolverhampton remained plugged into key networks and opportunities. We were fortunate that we were already partnering with WVCA on a project, and they have supported us into other agreements. These have been a great help to our beneficiaries and our organisation, and would not have been possible without WVCA, so we are very grateful for their support.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
They’re a decent lot.
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVCA help to support your organisation in the future?
I see the main role of WVCA is to act as the strategic interface with the NHS, council and other public organisations. After nearly thirty years of hearing calls for the ‘big players’ to change their ways of working from resource heavy approaches e.g. endless meetings, I’m now resigned to this never changing. Therefore it is crucial to have an organisation such as WVCA who can do this on our behalf and keep us connected; we simply do not have or should not waste the resources on doing this separately.
Having said that, Age UK Wolverhampton is moving to a sustainable income model away from public sector grants and contracts, so some of this connection may be less important. However, we don’t want to operate in isolation, and recognise that it’s necessary to work with partners in the City as part of an integrated offer to best meet our aims and help the older people of Wolverhampton.
WVCA also has a key role in enabling networking between sector organisations and leaders. Arriving in Wolverhampton during Covid, it has been difficult to establish networks and relationships, and just get to meet people, and I hope that WVCA will be supporting this to happen more as the World moves on.
Where can we find out more?
Email: Mark Guest email@example.com
Social Media: @AgeUKWolves
Address: Age UK Wolverhampton, The Workspace, All Saints Road, WV2 1EL