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Transcript - A Community Haven for all Generations, with Debbie from Age Concern Southend (Ep 14)


Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the community podcast connecting charities, communities & causes in the two unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In today’s episode we meet Debbie, and speak to her about Age Concern Southend.

Age Concern Southend are based in Westcliff, and they provide advice, support and much more to the older people in the area. In 2019 Age Concern Southend launched their community hub in the two story Grade II listed building on Hamlet Court Road, at the site of the old Havens Department store. We’ve mentioned Havens Community Hub several times before as it is one of our favourite places to go in Southend! It is always bustling with various activities, with classes, workshops, a fab cafe and so much more, providing a space for people to meet and find out what is going on locally.

As mentioned in previous episodes, we do apologise, for any bumps or background noises during the recording - the hub gets very busy!

Keep listening to find out more about Age Concern Southend and all of the brilliant services they offer…


Sharen: Welcome, Debbie.

Debbie: Thank you it’s lovely to be here

Sharen: Could you tell us about age concern and the services you offer?

There are 35,000 people in the Southend area over 65. 15,000 of them live alone, and more than half - 8,000 - of them report feeling lonely. And I have to say that statistic I took before the pandemic

Libby: Yeah

Debbie: And I'm pretty sure that that will have gone up.

We have a befriending service where if someone isn't able to get out of the house, we can match them with a befriender, who will pop along once a week for a chat, a coffee, But we also offer that service is a telephone befriending as well. Not everybody wants someone to go into their home. We offer wheelchair hire. Hearing aid batteries - people can come along to us instead of going all the way into the hospital. We have a stock of them so they can come into us and get every hearing aid from us. Information and advice. Well, that just covers a multitude of things. Uh, people asking about benefits, do we know a gardener, can we recommend somewhere where they can get this kind of advice or that kind of advice. So if we know how to help them, then we will. And if we don't know how to help them, then we can usually sign post them to somewhere when we know they'll get what they need. We also have our specialist day service “Days at The Haven”, which is a day centre for people who are older, who are lonely, who need company. But also caters for those who are living with dementia. That's something we’re incredibly proud of, its a really lovely environment to be in.

Libby: Brilliant! You're doing a lot!


Libby: The stats that you mentioned sort of speak for themselves, but in your own words, why are the services you provide needed in Southend?

Debbie: I think the level of telephone calls and enquiries that we get just tell us every absolutely every day. And that's kind of you know, it's increasing. We are getting more. And certainly since the pandemic, um, the numbers of people, that are asking for help.

Libby: Yeah

Debbie: It's tricky. Sometimes they find it difficult to ask for help.

Libby: Sure, yeah

Sharen: And we are sat at the moment, at the Havens Community Hub doing this recording.

Debbie: We are!

Sharen: So that's quite, relatively new

Debbie: Yes

Sharen: Compared to how long Age Concern has been running so can you tell us how it came about?

Debbie: I can. Um. So in 2018, we had a dream. We had a dream that we would form a community for people in the area. And that it would have specialist services for our older people for Age Concern, and then we took over this beautiful grade two listed building. Uh. So we had our dream and we had our building. It was just one thing - we needed to raise over half a million pounds to do the refurbishment

Libby: Oh wow!

Debbie: To make the dream come true. So we started doing a little bit of fundraising, but it quickly became clear that having a quiz night and an afternoon tea wasn't going to be quite enough. Right? So, you know, we set about applying for grants and fundings and the local community, people were absolutely amazing. And as you say, here we are today. There was a lot of hard work. There's a lot of dust and builders.


Debbie: but we're here now, and we're incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. Yeah.

Libby: Good. ‘Cause we love it here. Don't we?

Sharen: Yes!

Libby: It's amazing. And everyone that we speak to always speaks so well of it.

Debbie: Oh that’s great

Libby: All the staff are so friendly. Yeah, atmosphere is all homely.

Debbie: I think I think think that's actually the thing I like the most - the atmosphere.

I really I work next door in the office, but I really love coming here because you've got babies laughing, and you've got old people laughing and you’ve got mums chuckling.

Libby: Yeah you’ve got all the generations

Debbie: It’s dog friendly So you've got dogs barking


Libby: Yeah it’s lovely

Debbie: We were saying earlier, the cafe, you know, lovely smells, homemade cakes.

Sharen: Yes we’ve tasted a few! So yeah it is nice, as you say you get all the different it, like generations with just bringing the community together

Debbie: Exactly.

Sharen: Which I guess was a big aim when you set out

Debbie: Yeah, and I think it's really important. And I think the older people actually appreciate having a table with mums and kids next to them. They love it. And, you know, the kids can learn from the older people too

Libby: Definitely

Debbie: It's really important to make it intergenerational. So I hope we make that work for them!


Sharen: Yeah. And you do lots of classes here. And lots of groups come in. Could you tell a bit about the variety?

Debbie: Lots of classes! So well why don’t we start with the things that we do for the older people. And then I can tell you what we do for others as well.

So we did uh, touch on our dementia service, which is in this buidingl, which is for people who are lonely and specialist trained carers. They. Have. A. Ball. Let me tell you. Right. That's another place I love walking into. And it was very much we didn't want to open a day centre and everybody sat there with a colouring book or a jigsaw ‘cause not everybody likes colouring books and jigsaws.

Sharen: Yeah

Libby: Yes

Debbie: And it's geared so that every single person in that day service can join in. Yeah, so the activities are around what they like to do and they do crafting, a lot of singing and dancing. I do know that.

Libby: Singing is just wonderful isn’t it?

SharenL Yeah, food for the soul!

Debbie: We also have The Sound of Memories, which is an adult choir. They come in once a week. We offer IT help. That's something a lot of older people need, they can bring their tablets and phones, laptops and we can give them,oh we have expert volunteers, not us, who can give them advice um perhaps with banking or maybe just sending emails. We have keep steady and a fall prevention class, which is great for people who are just getting a bit wobbly. That helps build up the core muscles so they're able to support themselves better. We have chair yoga again, um we also have some active classes for older people. We don't assume they're all going to fall over!


Debbie: We've got strollersise that they belong to, and there's a keep fit class they go to. And then there's the younger people. So we've got Zumba, a Strollersise, Boot Camp, Yoga. We've got the kids stuff. We've got Cake Club, which is a parent support and play group, uh, seaside circus. That's another great one. An after school club where kids are learning circus skills. Got martial arts... We’re kind of open to what people would like, really! If we've got a room and a space for it then and those people wanting it then you know, we’d welcome people’s idea we really would!

So we also support here other organisations. So we have a day when um, Carers First are in, so people who want help on caring, we have a day when someone from Southend Borough Council Dementia Services comes in to help with that. We have Coffee With Cops, where you can come in and talk to your local cop. We also have on the ground floor here, we have the nail stylist, we have Indian head massage, we have foot care… So it's pretty diverse, as you can see!

Libby: Yes! Is there anything you don't have?

Debbie: There must be something!


Sharen: So the Havens was set up just before the pandemic struck, so you’ve had to adapt a lot. So moving forward what kind of things will you still continue to do?

Debbie: Definitely. I think at the moment we're still sanitising, cleaning a lot, encouraging people to wear masks. On the Age Concern side, we stopped the visiting a befriending during the pandemic because we couldn’t have people going into people's homes. That's just about to start up again now. So that’s something that we can move forward with.

I think we just need to be really aware of what's going to keep people safe. They all still want their classes. They all still want to come. We just need to make sure that they, and and we are safe and can give them the best time that we can while keeping within whatever guidelines we’re given at the time.

Sharen: And are you getting new people in all the time?

Debbie: Absolutely

Sharen: Does it feel like you attract different people.

Debbie: Absolutely. Um, you’d be surprised. I mean, we've been here a while now, not ages but a while, and someone will walk past our they’ll come stick their nose in the door and they’ll say “Well, I didn't even know you were here!” So then we say “Well, come on in then!” And this is what we do, and before, you know it, they’ve had a cup of coffee and they booked a yoga class. So yeah, we are.

Sharen: It’s a great asset to have the cafe isn’t it?

Debbie: it is

Sharen: ‘Cause that attracts

Debbie: It really does. And there's lots of regulars.

Libby: It's always so busy when we come here, isn't it? Do you have any volunteering opportunities? If people want to volunteer?

Debbie: Most definitely. Like many charities, we rely on volunteers. It really helps us. I know that we are always short of befrienders and telephone befrienders, uh particularly at the moment, more and more people are ringing in, needing help with loneliness. And there is a waiting list. So befrienders, yes please!

We also have um volunteering opportunities for market research, anyone who has experience in applying for grant funding. That's always really useful. Now that restrictions are less strict, we're putting on more and more events, and it's really great to have ad hoc event supporters who like to come along and pop on a hi-vis and show people where things are. I think also were looking recently for another volunteer for the IT class. All the volunteers opportunities are on the website

Libby: Yeah

Debbie: So you can get to it through that.

Something I haven't mentioned yet, actually, and that's our Hub membership scheme. The hops are open to anyone. Everybody is welcome. But if you join the Hub membership scheme, which is just £8 a month - less than £2 a week, you not only get discounts on the classes that we do, but also discounts on some of the shops around in Hamlet Court Road, some eateries… You’re helping Age Concern at the same time.

Sharen: So when you say the hub you mean this space?

Debbie: This hub here yes. So if you are a member, then you would get a discount on your classes that you're doing. Discount on the cafe, discount on the foot care. So it’s worth having! Definitely worth having.

Sharen: And if any of our listeners are listening and would like to follow or keep up with what you do, so you’ve got a timetable of activities which I guess is ever changing?

Debbie: Yes, that's right.

Sharen: What’s the best way to keep up?

Debbie: Okay, so um we have a website. We have a Facebook page, we have an instagram page. We also have a newsletter and once a month newsletter. So that's a great way of keeping in touch with what's going on. You can sign up for that at any point. You can ring us, you can email us. So if I let you have all those details afterwards, uh yeah, people do, please get in touch.

Libby: Brilliant we’ll put all of those details in the show notes.

Sharen: Yeah that’s brilliant or just pop in!

Debbie: Or just pop in!

Libby: Yeah! Have a coffee!

Debbie: Pop in and have a coffee!

Sharen: Look at the timetable!


Debbie: Yes, So, I mean, if you want up-to-date copies of the timetables that's usually on the newsletter. Uh, but they're always in the hub to pick and collect and on the website.

Libby: Fabulous. Well, thank you so much for coming to speak us today.

Debbie: It's been an absolute pleasure.

Sharen: Thank you

Debbie: Hope you’ve learnt lots about Age Concern and the hub!

Libby: We have!

Sharen: We certainly have!


Libby: Thank you for listening - we hope you enjoyed finding out all about Age Concern Southend and the Havens Community Hub!

For links to any social media, websites and more, please do visit our website to access the show notes for this episode. You can also access a transcript of the episode. The website is constellations-podcast.org.

We would love to hear from you about who else you would like to hear from - if there’s an individual, organisation or topic you would like to hear from or learn about, please just contact us on social media, or send an email to hello@constellations-podcast.org. As always, we would also really appreciate any other feedback you may have. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Tune in again next Tuesday for our next episode - we will be talking to Liz, Library Community Development Officer for Southend Libraries. See you then - bye!

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