In the past few years, following further appeals within the neighbourhood and generous grants from local organisations, FiSH has been able to purchase three accessible minibuses – named Jenny, Andy and Nicola. These are parked at Walsingham Lodge by kind permission of the Barnes Fund. And now with three part time employed drivers, a team of over 20 volunteer bus drivers and bus escorts and a bus management team, transport is very much at the centre of the services FiSH offers the Barnes, Mortlake and East Sheen community.
Add to those resources a befriending team which is actively engaged in reducing loneliness; a ‘Retro Café’ run in association with the Alzheimer’s Society for people with dementia in both Sheen and Barnes; a Singing for the Brain choir and Picasso art classes for those with memory loss; a Good Afternoon Choir and StarFiSH dance therapy classes for those who enjoy singing or exercising together; several warm spaces for group coffee mornings plus inspiring weekly Tuesday Talks run by FiSH followed by a lunch cooked by Age UK, FiSH can genuinely claim its activities are primarily aimed at improving the health and psychological wellbeing of our communities.
FiSH is fortunate in having a board made up of experienced, professional trustees led by Chair, Richard Williams. Since Jenny Hughes retired in 2017, Micky Forster took over until 2022 and has now been ably succeeded by Arlene Coutts as Director. Today the staff team in the office with Arlene consists of Linda Dutton, Operations Manager, Liz Dallas-Ross, Befriending Manager, Deborah Carter, Transport Manager and Sally Godstone, Administrative Assistant.
Within the communities we serve, FiSH faces the challenge of supporting growing numbers of older people, many of whom experience chronic loneliness. We are also concerned with the future threat that one in three people over 65 will develop some form of dementia. We are confident, however, that FiSH’s special expertise in recruiting, training and supporting volunteers, offers a secure foundation upon which innovative social care strategies, based within the community, can be developed for the future.
The availability of social care is increasingly acknowledged as a key factor affecting the ability of our health services to operate effectively and to cope with the additional demands of an ageing population. FiSH Neighbourhood Care, now a professionally managed, dependable organisation, is well placed to be a valued local partner in providing supportive services for older people, helping them continue to live with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible.