The stimulation of reading

UPDATE: The centre will be closed on Friday 19th February and perhaps into the following week. Please check our Facebook page for the latest updates.

Hello. Features in this bulletin include: activities for babies’ minds; news about the extension of library membership; a poem by Maya Angelou; and a story for children. Read on…

Stimulating activities for toddlers
Young parents have been telling us how much they miss the parent & toddler sessions at the centre. Let’s hope we can bring them back soon!

In the meantime, parents might like to know of an initiative set up by Staffordshire Libraries.
If you sign up for The Hungry Little Minds Campaign, you get fortnightly emails which outline fun, easy activities to do with a baby or toddler under 2 years old. The activities are specific to age, from three months to eighteen months and so on.
The videos, songs and nursery rhymes to which you are directed help a baby learn about sounds, speech and conversation.

This initiative is incredibly important. In Staffordshire one in four children is struggling to reach good communication development by the age of four, and this means they are at a disadvantage when they start school. In lockdown, with such low levels of interaction, it’s even tougher.
Parents can sign up for this scheme at

A poem from Maya
February is always LGBT-Plus Month, and Staffordshire Libraries are taking part, as they always do. The month is a chance to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against, gays and transgender people – while celebrating their achievements too.

This year the organisers put the stories of five people at the forefront of the project, and it’s terrific that the life of a great writer – Maya Angelou – is one of those stories. In her life Maya Angelou stood up for gay people like herself – and suffered for it.

Her first book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is a 20th century classic of course, but her poetry is also marvellous.
In the short video here, an enthusiast for her work reads one of Ms Angelou’s great poems.

Library Membership update
As we expected, there has been a surge in library membership since the first lockdown nearly a year ago. Across Staffordshire, 5,000 new members have signed up.
We are pleased to add that, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, we will be extending everyone’s membership to 3 years from when they joined; and anybody new who joins will also automatically be given a 3 year membership!
If you are not a member of the library yet, please visit the Self Registration webpage to join.

And, don’t forget… here at Blythe, we are usually open (even in lockdown) two days a week to hand out books, and we’d love to see you. Check our Facebook page for details.

Is everyone sitting comfortably?…

Finally, as you’ll know, National StoryTelling Week falls in February, so thought we’d have a story for you.
The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara is a wonderful children’s book and here’s a reading by a Libraries volunteer…

For more story-telling on video, please go to the Staffordshire Libraries YouTube Channel. Enjoy!

For more information please call the library on 01782 485269.

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Dealing with Lockdown

Welcome to Lockdown no 3… Well, maybe ‘welcome’ is not quite the right word, but here we are, so we must make the best of it.

To open, or…

When Mr Johnson announced the lockdown, we knew we had to make some decisions about whether to keep the library centre open or not – and eventually it came down to what each & every one of us here thought would be best for us as individuals and for us as a community.

The heads of Staffordshire Libraries decided to keep the county’s main branches open, but left us community branches (which are run by volunteers) to decide for themselves; and around half of the county’s community branches, and all its mobile libraries, did in fact decide to shut.
However, after a deal of discussion, we have decided to remain open, keeping the same opening hours and restrictions as in the autumn.
The government do see libraries as an “essential service”, and so does the volunteer team here at Blythe.

Volunteers at Blthe Lib

So, we will continue to provide service. You can still reserve books to pick up here, and more (see our homepage for a list of services).
Obviously, all could change – though we hope not! -, so please keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest updates.

Ancestry still available

Back in the Spring, during the first lockdown, ‘Ancestry’ the family history website, announced it would allow all library users access to its site, for free, for a month. It has then gone on to extend that offer every month since.
And sure enough, it’s doing it again, but this time, for three months. As a member of Staffordshire Libraries, you can access Ancestry Library Edition at home until the end of March 2021 – so you can really get stuck into your family history now!

Logo of ancestry library edtion

To access the site you need to log in to your Library account here, then make sure you are in the ‘Account’ section and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link where it says ‘Access Ancestry Online’. (If you’re struggling with the process, or need to become a library member, please give us a call during our opening hours).
Here’s a handy Ancestry Guide to get you started.

Explaining Covid to the youngsters

There’s nothing like a colourful book to explain things to young children, which is why we’ve partnered with a publishing firm to produce ‘Coronavirus – A Book For Children’. This short e-book, available free, answers key questions in simple language, appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds, and is illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the man who did the pictures for The Gruffalo.

If you have a printer at home you can download and print it, or you can just read it off your computer. There’s even an audio version, read by actor Hugh Bonneville, if your children prefer headphone-listening.

All the advice you need – on one page

For many of us, it’s not that there’s too little advice available, it’s that there’s too much!
So, Staffs Libraries have checked out a lot of the websites out there, and then gathered the best links to all the main advice you’ll need, especially local. They’re all now neatly on just one web-page, where you’ll find links to all sorts of stuff from home-lessons for kids, to wellbeing, to online courses for adults.
We call it the Useful Resources In Lockdown Page – cos that’s just what it is!

Feeling blue?

Many of us got through the first two lockdowns as best we could, but in those the weather was on our side. A January lockdown is not so much fun, and some of us are feeling distinctly low.

If you think this isolation is turning into an issue for you, or someone you know, a 24-hour mental health helpline is now up and running in north Staffordshire, and has already received more than 500 calls.
The Brighter Futures Helpline, established by the local authorities, provides callers with a safe, confidential space to talk to counsellors about things. You can call, day or night, any time, on 01782 234233.

….And, finally…

As Tiny Tim said, in a famous book by Charles Dickens: God bless us, every one!

For more information please call the library on 01782 485269.

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Looking forward

Good grief, what a year it has been! But, yet, once again, time has flown – and we are almost into a new year. It doesn’t seem possible it could have been that quick.

Just to let you know that our last day at the centre before the Christmas break is Tuesday 22nd Dec (9.30am-2.30pm). If you need to pick up books ready for the long winter nights, please reserve them as soon as possible, and we’ll try to have them ready for you to collect then. We can also just make up our choice of an assortment of books for you – what we call a ‘grab-bag’.
Do remember though that we only are operating what’s called ‘restricted foyer service’ at the centre, i.e. only click & collect really, and no entry into the library itself.
We re-open on Tuesday 5th January.

Incidentally, all current loans have been automatically extended, with the earliest due-back date being January 9th 2021 – and… our Christmas present to you – no overdue charges for the (very) late return of items then!

Keeping busy

For some of us, Christmas will be excessively quiet compared to previous years. But – it need not be boring. We have once again extended free use of the Ancestry website to our members, this time for three months. Ancestry is a great resource for discovering family history!
Click on this link to find out how to access it.

If you are embarrassed by technology sometimes (and who isn’t?) one really great resource for members is our Guides to Digital. If you hoping to spend time this festive season catching up with relatives online and want to be ready, then you need these, our free introductions to: Zoom Meetings; Skype Guide; The Best Video Calling Apps for Android Phones; FaceTime on iPhones and iPads; and WhatsApp.
Just click on this ‘Digital Unite’ link.

By the way, if you know somebody who is not already a Staffordshire Libraries member, please encourage them to visit our website and join. It’s easy and it’s free.

Talking is important

Photo by Anna Shvets on

We think our volunteers here at the Blythe Centre have done a great job with the local Phone-Buddy service – a weekly phone call to anyone who is feeling isolated.

But there’s another talking project you may like as well – ‘Reading Friends’.
If you love reading but don’t have anyone to chat with about the books you’re reading, then this is for you!
All it is is a phone-chat about reading, once a week. Interested? Email

…not forgetting the kids…

Very happy to say that The Reading Agency has launched another project – the ‘Winter Mini Challenge’ – to get kids reading over the holidays. If the children succeed in reading three books, there are rewards…

We at the centre can always recommend books for different age-groups for this challenge, but please remember that the last day for picking them up from us before 2021 is Tuesday 22nd Dec. If you can’t make that date, then you can still take e-books out of our e-library of course.

So… that’s it for 2020 (good riddance!)… but, still … wishing you a great Xmas and happy New Year and a peaceful 2021 – see you next year!!

For more information please call the library on 01782 485269.

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Keeping strong!

Please refer to our homepage for an update on services during lockdown

= = =

October 2020

First… thanks to the dozens and dozens of people who have expressed their good wishes for our efforts since we re-opened. It’s good to know, not only that our efforts are appreciated, but that the community is still feeling positive.

And, although we can’t put on exhibitions or events, we are determined still to taken a full part in the life of the community.Poppy appeal 2020For example, this year there will be fewer Remembrance Poppy sellers on the streets – so we are stocking poppies for sale. Just drop in during our opening hours and get yours.

Incidentally, some people have assumed that, because the pandemic is now over six months old, that our Phone Buddy service is no longer needed. How wrong they are, sadly.
This service consists of regular phone-call by one of our volunteers to an individual in the district who is isolating, or just feels too much on their own.
The service now works with nearly three dozen folk and brings definite benefits, we know.

It’s not a counselling service, but just a friendly phone-call. (If problematic issues do arise, we can make a referral though – with the individual’s consent of course).
The service is organised through the volunteer Care & Fun Charity, which is the community charity based here in Blythe Bridge (which also runs the Blythe library centre of course). So, you can imagine that, while we may be volunteers, we make sure we are ‘professional’.

Do you think you could be a volunteer Phone Buddy? It would require a little training, but not much, and you don’t need qualifications or experience to do it. It would need about an hour a week.
If you think you could, please contact Helen. We all need to ‘do our bit’, and this could be your contribution maybe.

Remember that we now provide books in a number of ways – click & collect, grab-a-bag, through the online e-books library, and even (if you are housebound) books delivery. It’s all explained on another page – click here for details.However, we do love to see you in person as well, inside the centre!
Why not come in and look through our items for sale – lots of knitted baby-wear, but we have cushions, Christmas wreaths and more too (see them on display, in the pic above). Everything is priced between £5 and £10. All sales help our funds too.

Finally, many of us have turned to local history in lockdown. It’s a boom area.
The Staffordshire History Festival, which is running at the moment (online, of course) is experiencing great levels of interest.

One thing the festival has come up with is its local-history quizzes. For example there is a Staffordshire Moorlands History Quiz.
So… we are asking you if you might be happy to make up similar local-history quizzes, along the same lines as the festival ones, for our catchment-areas specifically – Blythe Bridge, Draycott & Cresswell, Stallington, Forsbrook, Caverswall, Dilhorne.
Submit the questions and answers to when you’re ready and we’ll publish the best!

Blythe Bridge Library is currently open Tuesdays and Fridays 9.30am-2.30pm.
For more information please call the library on 01782 485269.

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Welcome in!

A hearty welcome to the inside!
Yes, so far, we’ve only been able to meet and greet visitors in the lobby area, but now – the whole library space is open to all. This also means of course that browsing is back: instead of us going to the shelves and getting books for you, you can now wander round and look at everything we’ve got.
Naturally, there are still precautions to be respected, but it does honestly feel great to be able to demonstrate a proper welcome-in once again.

Phased openings

This new development means we are back to where we were library-wise – but gatherings (the likes of clubs, meetings etc) and public events are still not permitted, so we’ve a way to go before it is a full community centre once more.
When we get to that point, that will definitely be a good day.

However, all the initiatives we’ve come up over the last month will still remain in place.
So … if you are uncomfortable about coming into the space, we’ll still do Click And Collect (just contact us and we’ll pick out the books you want for you) and Grab And Go Bags (just tell us what sort of books you like to read and we’ll make up a selection) and even Book Delivery for The Housebound & Isolated (please contact us for details).
Our Phone-Buddies system (give us a call if you are feeling isolated and want to talk over anything) will be running for the duration.
Computers are available for use – but must be pre-booked.
And services like photocopying and laminating carry on as usual.


We are all getting used to the precautions, but they are still important. As much as protecting ourselves, the rules protect the wonderful volunteers who run the daily business of the centre. They must be protected.Wear a mask noticeSo….
# Masks please! (Or suitable face-covering). If you are exempt, do not enter the library, but wait in the lobby to talk to a volunteer and explain your exemption.
# We operate ‘track and trace’, so you will be required to give your name & contact details. The information will be destroyed after 21 days.
# Sanitising of hands as you enter the library is paramount. It means that if you touch a book, you won’t leave anything on it.
(Thus, any returned books must now be left in the box provided in the entrance, and not brought to the desk)
# You can now borrow 8 items at any one time. Please ensure you bring your library card!

One little word of warning. Con-artists, claiming to be contact-tracers, are already at work, making random calls to people. If you are contacted, remember to really check the credentials of the person who’s calling.Warning against fake tracersFor a full and detailed run-down of how Staffordshire Libraries are dealing with the current Covid issues, please click on this link.

Blythe Bridge Library is currently open Tuesdays and Fridays 9.30am-2.30pm.
For more information please call the library on 01782 485269.

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We’re back!

Do you remember March 23rd? That’s when all Staffordshire’s library centres had to close as part of the government’s strategy to combat coronavirus. It seems an era ago.
Re-opening all those libraries has been a slow process, with the large ‘directly-managed’ libraries, such as Leek, only reopening in late July.

Our team here at Blythe have been on the county-wide task-force organising the return of the smaller ‘community-managed’ libraries, and we CMLs have been gradually doing just that.
And now, as of September 8th, 170 days on from closing, we ourselves are finally re-opening!
It will only be for two days a week and for just five hours each day (Tuesdays & Fridays, 9.30am-2.30pm), but it’s a start.

We’e back!!

For the next couple of weeks, we can offer: ‘click/phone order and collect‘ (where you order books over the internet or phone and then come pick them up); computer time (must be pre-booked); printing/photocopying.
Sadly though, no group activities for now.
Please keep watching our Facebook page to check on exactly what services we will be able to offer and when.

One thing we should mention is that our Phone Buddies service is still operating – as Covid is not going away soon – and we still have many referrals.
Additionally, for those staying at home and struggling with computers, we still offer a Computer Buddy service – but this has be done ‘virtually’. Just get in touch.

As you can guess, a lot of what we can do will depend on how many volunteers come forward. If you can help, even if it’s only behind the scenes, please get in touch.volunteer in librariesAnd, if you do come see us, as we hope you do – please remember to bring your mask…

The novels that made a difference

Lots has been happening online over the last months of course, and one of the most interesting online events was the vote for Staffordshire readers’ choice of the ‘Novel That Shaped My World’.

The eventual top five was a very diverse selection including: To Kill A Mockingbird, the anti-racism novel; 1984, the vision of a horrifying totalitarian world; and The Earthsea Trilogy, the magical fantasy with a spiritual twist. However, the most popular were Pride & Prejudice, a gentle satire on society, and, number one, The Lord Of The Rings, the powerful story of good & evil.
Novels have the power to influence us in how we live our lives, and these were fascinating choices.

A silver (white) lining

Curiously, with the centre and the next-door school being closed, the car park outside the centre was empty nearly all the time.Newly painted car park (2020)So, the authorities took the chance to repaint the white parking lines. And they look pretty good, and now very clear!

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Summer’s challenge

Welcome to our June bulletin.
Even though the library centre itself is still closed, the team is very active; and in this update, there is news of a reading challenge for children, a commitment to home delivery services and a further extension for the Ancestry offer.

However, first, the question a lot of you are asking: when will Blythe Centre re-open? The likelihood is that community-managed libraries like Blythe will get the green light in four to five weeks’ time.  But… all will depend on how best we can protect our volunteers and visitors, so there’s a lot to sort out first. We will let you know how things are looking as time goes by.

In the meantime, the team here presses on. Our support work has been particularly valued; and we’ve been fielding a lot of questions on the hot-line number. One particular field of work has been helping people understand and use the Zoom video-calling programme, and that has been very satisfying as it has brought people together.

Books to your doorstep

It’s clear though that some elderly people, especially those who are shielding, will not feel comfortable in public spaces for some months to come. One reassuring thing for them though is that we, and the whole county library service, are making a direct commitment to deliver books, safely, to your home if you don’t want to come into the library. You need never be short of reading matter!
Just contact us, and we’ll make arrangements.

In order to get those books delivered, we need more volunteers. Can you help for an hour every so often? Please contact us to say if you can help.

The Summer Reading Challenge is back!

Due to the coronavius, the annual reading challenge for children will be conducted online this year. The idea of the scheme, for those who’ve never tried it, is to keep children reading over the summer.Staffs Libraries 2020 Silly SquadThe theme this year is ‘The Silly Squad’.

The process is very easy. First, children (with help from parents/guardians) should enroll at our website,, and create a profile.
Children should then set their own challenge, e.g. the amount of books or comics they will read; and then, each time they finish one, they add it to their online profile with a short review.

The bonus is that there are downloadable activities, games and puzzles, all being added to the website all over this summer.

Research at home

One thing that people in lockdown have really appreciated is the access to the Ancestry website. holds hundreds of historical documents and is used by people researching their family tree as well as other history.Logo of ancestry library edtionNormally you would have to pay to access, but during this crisis, a special temporary arrangement had been negotiated, so that any Staffordshire Libraries member could use the site for free through their own home computer.
That arrangement was due to finish at the end of this month, but here’s the good news – the arrangement has been extended… until the end of July.

This is great news for people restricted to the house as, for many of them, Ancestry has become quite the hobby!
To access the site, you need first to visit the Staffs Library User Pages, then log in to your account with your card number and PIN.  Make sure you are in the ‘Account’ section and then scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the link where it says ‘Access Ancestry Online’. Have fun.
Any problems – just give us a call.

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Books & bunting 4 U

Welcome to the book (and crafts) stall!

Library book stallIf you’ve been passing the library recently, you may have noticed the shelving outside (see pic right). On it you’ll see stacks of books, from classics to children’s books to romances (something for everybody) and they are all there for you to browse, and take away.
All we ask in return is a ‘virtual’ donation. Please do not leave cash.

You’ll also find little plastic bags attached to the stall. These are craft packs containing everything you would need for a garden party, from bunting to cut-outs. The children (or you) will have to colour them in first, but that’s half the fun!Bunting craft packsIf you’re planning a stay-at-home celebration to remember VE Day on May 8th, these craft packs have all you need to decorate your property.
Please be aware that the stall is on site Monday-Friday 10am-3pm weather permitting, but not bank-holidays (such as May 8th).

Protect yourself

In these strange times though, we’ve gone the extra mile to make sure you can protect yourself against the coronavirus. We suggest you bring a bag to put the books or packs in, and when you have made your selection and put them in your bag, then use the hand-sanitiser we have provided on the stall to clean your hands.
If you want to be ultra-safe, you can clean down the books and packs when you get home – or leave them in the bag untouched for three days, by which time the virus, if any is there, should have died.


All we ask in return is a donation, which you can do using your mobile phone. Simply text a message to our donation number, which is 70480.  If you text ‘Books 1’ that donates £1, ‘Books 3’ means £3, etc etc up to £20. It’s up to you how much you donate.

All donations will support our current charity project supporting people in the community. If you feel that you, or someone you know, could benefit from the project, please click here for more details.

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May time opportunities

Wow – it’s May already. Who’d have thought at the beginning of the year we’d be in this situation?
In this bulletin, some news about borrowing e-books, listening to classical music online for free, a month’s free access to ‘Ancestry’, an update on our centre’s community-support line, and an opportunity to turn your hand to paid work caring for our local vulnerable.


One of the things that we have learnt from this crisis is that the best way to get through it is – adapt to it. And that is true of library use as much as anything else.
Borrow Box promoOur branch may be shut, but book-borrowing has not stopped. Many users have turned instead to the free e-book system – which has seen requests shoot up by over 50%!
Instead of reading a book in hand, we are reading on our tablets (or mobile phones).

If you have not tried our e-book system, it is easy to learn how (honestly). First though, you need your Staffordshire Libraries membership card of course, and you will need your PIN (a four-number code), as well as a tablet or mobile-phone to download your e-books on to.
(Kindle-reader devices do not work with our system though).

And it’s not just books that you can download. Our system also offers magazines, newspapers, and even superhero comics! And if you prefer to listen to books being read to you, it also offers audio books.
Everything is explained on this page – how the county’s e-library works.
And the whole thing is free to library members…
If you are not a Staffordshire Library member, find out how by clicking here.

(Incidentally, it’s worth noting that each county has different rules and slightly different library services, so if you may not be able to access the same services as, say, a friend in another county).

And there’s more!

As a special concession to help us all at this time, the Staffordshire Library Service are now offering an extra service, one that would normally attract costs, for free.
Yes, lovers of classical music will be happy to hear that the full ‘Medici’ music catalogue is now available to us for free: concerts, operas, music documentaries, and master classes, all on-demand. Medici is a programme that specialises in collecting classical music for people to listen to.

Medici Tv promo

Just some of the artists on Medici

To access Medici, click here and follow the link. Remember to have your library card number, and your PIN, to hand when you log in.

And, there’s even more than that – special offer – one month only!

Ancestry on computerThe Staffordshire Libraries service has secured a deal to allow library members free access to the famous ‘Ancestry’ programme from their own home computers.
Usually you can’t get access to Ancestry unless you come into the library and use our library computers, or you pay for it.

Ancestry is quite invaluable to anyone researching their family-tree or trying to find out about individuals from the past – you may have seen it advertised on the TV. For many of our users, it’s an absorbing and eye-opening hobby.
If you’ve never tried it, this really is a great opportunity, and we urge you to give it a go!
Remember, this free home access is only available until the end of May.  (UPDATEDnow extended – until the end of June).

You will need your Library card number and PIN. (If you are not a Staffordshire Library member, find out how by clicking here.)
To access the site you need to log in to your library account here on this page.
You then need to make sure you are in the ‘Account’ section; scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the link where it says ‘Ancestry Access’.

Support continues
It seems a long time ago now since we closed the branch at Blythe (six weeks now, hard to believe) but the Blythe & Surrounding Districts community-support system we set up then continues to function. Click here for the details of that.

Since then, we have also been installed into the nationwide support system network; and are now a ‘partner agency’ in the effort to ensure safe and responsible co-ordination of help for the vulnerable in our neighbourhoods.
As such we are also being asked to give ideas as to where additional extra support needs to be directed, so if you do have thoughts, do not hesitate to call or email us.

Could you be a carer?
If you feel that you can put yourself out there to give some home care to the vulnerable, even if you have never done such wok before, the county council would love to hear from you.
The need is urgent – so the county is offering paid-for work to those people who come forward to help. And, don’t worry, you’ll be given full instructions on how you and those you visit can stay safe. For full details, click here.

If you have thoughts about anything you have read on this page, please use the Comments Box below.

Phone Buddies project launched

In this time of crisis, we at a community hub like Blythe Centre cannot just stand by and leave it to the authorities do it on their own.  Yes, the centre itself is shut, but the project and its aims are still in place.
So, from this week, we are running a local ‘Phone Buddies’ system.

We are inviting anyone in the community who feels isolated, or would like to know they have someone to turn to, to join the scheme. The idea is that one of our project volunteers gives you a regular call just to check all is well.

Just phone us on 01782 485269, preferably between 9.30am–2.30pm, for more information and to register yourself. At other times, an answerphone may be on; please leave a message, and we’ll be back to you.
The same number if you want to volunteer to be a buddy.

Don’t worry if you don’t live in Blythe itself, we accepting applications from people for miles around!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

What is a phone buddy?

It’s a basic, caring service: it is just one of our ordinary volunteers, who calls up and says: “how’s it going?” A reaching out, if you like.

However…. it is not for professional ‘counselling’ or for health information about the coronavirus, which would not be right.
But – if certain support is requested, e.g. for shopping or for help tracing other relatives, then the volunteers have been asked to refer the question back to the project organisers.

The wonderful thing is that we’ve had a terrific response from our volunteers.  As of today, we could support one hundred members of the community.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.comOur policy 

We know that similar services have already been offered by ad-hoc community groups which have sprung up in a spontaneous way to respond to this crisis.
But, using our experience as part of the Care & Fun registered charity, we’ve taken a tiny bit longer to get started, because experience tell us this kind of thing needs to be done carefully and professionally.

All our volunteers are vetted and instructed; a complaints procedure (let’s hope it’s never needed) is in place; and we have a published policy document.
The policy has been recognised as good practice.
The project is being supported by Staffs County (Public Health and Prevention Department) and Support Staffordshire.
Over time, we may even be able to expand this work, with their help, including using the centre for the most vulnerable to get additional support.

We will get through this, of course we will, but helping each other along the way will make it a lot easier. And we hope this project contributes to that.

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