Last Saturday I went to the great Caring Town Fair, organised by Caring Town Totnes, a great initiative that has emerged from Transition Town Totnes exercising their ‘power to convene’. Caring Town describes itself thus: “we’re a network of public, voluntary and private organisations who care about our community – working together to grow our local health and welfare services” (their longer description is below, beneath the podcast). Their approach, and the work they are doing, are starting to attract interest from many places, so in this podcast I take you for a walk around the Fair, and allow the organizers, visitors and participants to tell you about the event, and why it mattered to them. Almost as good as being there…
The Caring Town Totnes story so far
We know that our local health and social services are under extreme pressure, due mainly to budget cuts. At the same time, we have growing numbers of elderly people often with complex needs. Social isolation is a big problem for many in our community, especially among older people and single parents. There’s not enough well-paid secure jobs in the area, or affordable housing, leading to financial pressure and stress on families in particular. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, especially in young people, and our mental health services cannot meet the demand. Clearly our local services face an extraordinary set of challenges, with the greatest impact already falling on the most vulnerable. It appears that relying on a government and market approach to deliver what we need is failing us.
The good news is that there’s increasing evidence of the contribution that strong, resilient communities can make to support health and wellbeing, and that these approaches lead to better outcomes and significant benefits for individuals, services and communities. Our area already has a good range of resilience-building activity underway and Caring Town can add to, build on and connect much of this activity through addressing some key health and care issues. We believe there’s a huge opportunity to provide formal and informal support and services in a far better way, with the help of all of us in our local community – with clear roles defined for the statutory, private and voluntary sectors. Collectively, we think have the ideas and likely solutions for many of the issues we face.