Open Arms

The Open arms project continues to listen to communities who want to take action to tackle loneliness across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. It is encouraging to see small things can make a big difference to people’s lives. This was demonstrated to me recently whilst on a visit to a local care home in Fenland. Some young mums had got together and decided to take their children to visit a local care home. To see the eyes of one of the residents who struggles to communicate light up at the sight of a child playing with their toys is special. It is a welcome reminder of the power of human connection. It is these moments that make it all worth it.


As we move into Winter, Open Arms is looking forward to working with the Princes Trust and the volunteer Police cadets in residential care settings in both the North and the South of the county. We are a sharing our message that small moments of connection are vital in tackling loneliness across the county during the re launch of the 50,000 reasons campaign.  We are looking forward to continuing to develop small partnerships with those who want to take action in their community. We have been looking for opportunities to bring some Christmas cheer and reaching out to those who are less well connected. If everyone plays a part by taking small actions, the result is that communities come together stronger.

Beat the stress this Christmas

It’s nearly Christmas and all the advertisements showing the ‘perfect’ celebration can push people’s expectations and expenditure. For some it can be a demanding and stressful time of year.  In the wellbeing team we speak to some clients who find Christmas challenging – maybe they will be alone or perhaps they find it is an emotionally painful time. Here are some ideas to help reduce the stress and anxiety that Christmas can bring. You, your family and friends might find them helpful too.

1- Be careful with finances.  Money issues are a leading cause of stress over the Christmas period.  The best way to manage this is to plan ahead, buy Christmas presents throughout the year and try to limit impulsive spending.  It is important to set an affordable budget and stick to it.

2 –Manage expectations. Be realistic, help others to be realistic by explaining that Christmas is about being together and not about how many presents they get.

3 – Eat well and drink sensibly.  What we eat and drink can have an impact on how we feel.  Although it’s fine to treat yourself, be mindful about balance and moderation.

4  – Coping with loneliness.  Find meaningful ways to spend your time, such as volunteering or visiting someone else in your community who is also alone.  Do something that you love, make Christmas Day a day for you to spend doing something that is meaningful and enjoyable  – it doesn’t have to be Christmas related.  Find out if there are any local community events you can access.

5 – Stay active.  As tempting as it is to stay indoors at this time of year it will help you to relax and boost your wellbeing if you get out and about in the fresh air.

6 – Ask for help and take a break. It’s okay to ask for help if you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed or to say no when you need to. Think about the things you could do to help you relax, do something just for yourself.

7 – Have fun.  Forget how busy you are and make time to have fun.  Laughter is a great way to combat stress and to help you relax, so organise a few fun activities that you will enjoy. Re-runs of Only Fools and Horses, Fawlty Towers, Desmond’s or Morecambe and Wise can be a tonic.

Whatever you do, we hope you have an enjoyable time.

Best wishes, Kate Blackwell and Cate Winters.

Community Funding for South Cambridgeshire

South Cambs District Council Community Chest has increased it fund to £49,000 and the criteria has widened to allow more groups to bid. Changes to the eligibility criteria of the Community Chest fund  will give more Parish Councils in South Cambridgeshire a chance to bid for funding to support their community projects – while at the same time the total funding, available to March, will increase to £49,070.


The Community Chest fund supports Parish Councils and other local groups in their efforts to promote active and healthy lifestyles, build inclusive communities, and enhance the natural environment – and groups can bid for up to £1,000 from the fund towards these projects.


Each year, the fund is split in half so that groups applying later in the year will still have an opportunity to bid before the funding has all been allocated. Applications for the second half of the pot are now being taken. Bids will be reviewed on a monthly basis until March, or until the year’s allocated funds have all been awarded.


Please contact  or  if you would like more information


More information about the new eligibility criteria can be found on SCDC website

Whittlesey Festival

The Whittlesey Festival has been running for 11 years and has grown immeasurably over time. Whittlesey is a market town on the outskirts of Peterborough but has always come under the Fenland District Council boundaries. The Festival is a celebration of the towns’ vibrancies and diversity and has a reputation for lots of entertainments and local talent. They expect at least 5000 visitors over the weekend.

Care Network held an information stand with Adam Fraser from the Open Arms project, Julie Jeffryes from the Healthy Fenland Team and Azanda Sithole the new volunteer lead. The weather was glorious it was a perfect early autumn day with glorious sunshine. We spent the day talking to lots of people about all of the different Care Network projects. Julie identified a number of potential new group opportunities. Adam talked to lots of people about Open Arms and Azanda identified some potential new volunteers.

We all spent time walking around the festival stalls and activities giving out our leaflets & information and talking to people we were able to see some of the varied entertainments such as the Local Pipe Band, Ukrainian Cossack Dancers and a local Children’s Theatre Group perform. There was music and entertainment all day. Lots of lovely food and charity stalls, a Photography Competition and lots of raffles and games of chance to entertain people. We would all recommend you try to attend next year’s event.

It is very important that Care Network is seen out and about it the communities we serve and this was a great opportunity to meet lots of different people.

Coneygear Seniors in action!

Care Network has been supporting the relaunch of the Medway Community Centre in Huntingdon and our Community Navigator District Coordinators Rachel and Lorraine popped along to visit the Coneygear Seniors Group last week.

One of the group brought along some wool for the knitting table. Rachel suggested knitting squares to make a blanket for a homeless charity, thinking of similar efforts to raise funds happening in our Chatteris office. This was really popular and helped to give the knitters satisfaction that they were able to help others.  Our ladies had some lovely conversations, sharing information on various local services and activities and will be giving further support to some members, including referring to our Wellbeing service. They also met a member that is already receiving support from one of our wonderful volunteers.

Rachel and Lorraine enjoyed participating in the chair based exercise group “It was really interesting for us to experience.  A lady asked after the exercise where she could get a resistance band.  I asked Everyone Health if they could let her have a free one but they don’t have many, so directed her to Amazon or Sports Direct.  She said she would ask her son to order her one.”

One of the ladies Lorraine spoke to said she had moved to Huntingdon 8 years ago and this club was the first opportunity she had had to get out and meet new people.  She was really pleased she had made the effort and we will be working with her to explore other social opportunities.

Rachel and Lorraine are both looking forward to visiting again to build relationships and obviously to finish their knitted squares –their knitters have promised to keep going in their absence J

The Coneygear Seniors group takes place every Wednesday from 9am to 1pm at the Medway Centre. There are lots of activities to take part in along with refreshments and a 2 course cooked meal.

Help at Home – joining up the dots

Help At Home continues to be active across Cambridgeshire, supporting those who have recently been in hospital or who are unwell at home and need a little help to aid recovery.   Our volunteers are integral to this work, providing preventative support to those who might otherwise find themselves in hospital or in crisis.   In addition to this, we have been busy piloting a new service ‘Joining up the Dots’ within Peterborough City Hospital.  This fantastic service aims to help those with more complex situations that would fall normally outside of the scope of Help at Home.  So far we have been able to support 80 people in this way.

We have also been busy spreading the word about Help At Home and Care Network, making sure as many people as possible know about the support we can provide.  We were recently invited to speak at Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s Physio department and as a result have built some great relationships and are receiving referrals from them; we were part of the Addenbrookes’ Volunteers’ Week celebrations where we were able to talk about the good work we do there, and we attend a number of Integrated neighbourhood events, Multi-Disciplinary Teams meetings and engage with other health and social care professionals regularly.


Lesley coordinates our ‘Joining up the Dots’ work in Peterborough.   One delighted lady wrote to tell us how she had met Lesley at the home of her friend who had been admitted to hospital a few days before.   “I knew the bungalow was in a state and was thrilled there was someone willing to tackle it. Lesley took charge, in a calm, effective manner, identifying the areas that needed tackling first and creating a sensible, efficient system to initially sort through piles of papers etc. My offer of help was accepted and because of her calm, professional approach I was able to rise above my emotions and help her sort things out. She showed a real interest in my friend, asking sensible questions and listening to the answers!

I had to leave at 12noon but another volunteer joined her and together they continued to work there until about 4.30pm.

What a difference they made! All the untidiness had been removed and the bed made up.
My friend has since died so will not see the changes, but thanks to Lesley’s help we are now able to look for important papers to ensure their final wishes are met”.

Community Navigators supporting community resilience

Our Community Navigators have been working with partners across the county to support communities as well as individuals.

Susie, our Chief Executive Officer was featured on Huntingdon Community Radio’s “Over to You” programme, outlining the support we provide to local people and inviting listeners to get involved.

Our Volunteering & Outreach Senior Coordinator met with Norfolk-based ‘Ask Lily’ to discuss more collaborative working for people living along the border with Cambridgeshire.   Ask Lily sit within the Kings Lynn & West Norfolk council and are commissioned to combat loneliness and social isolation in adults of all ages. They maintain an online directory of organisations, services and activities that help people live healthy, active and independent lives. Care Network services and volunteering opportunities will soon be featured and our team are already referring into Ask Lily.

Adult Learning and Skills, Cambridgeshire are working on a ‘Sharing Stories; Sharing Lives’ project to equip volunteers to facilitate older people to share and tell their (life)story. Care Network was invited to be involved in the first stage of the project: developing storytelling-based training and resources. Our teams contributed to the development of Stor-E tree question materials and training sessions. This will be a useful tool to help people explore their personal history and ambitions, offering the opportunity to connect with others and improve wellbeing

In Fenland, we are part of the new Wisbech and Surrounding Villages Charities Network and Whittlesey and March Food Poverty Network. We regularly attend partner meetings and our Community Development and Healthy Fenland teams continue to offer support to new community projects aimed at tackling poverty. As a Golden Age partner, we run stalls at community fairs aimed at the over 50s held across Fenland. Our Open Arms team joined us at the last fair at Wisbech St Mary to engage with members of the public around the subject of loneliness.

We took part in the recent Steel Bones Celebration Day at Isleham; this was attended by around 300 amputees and their families.  Lesley and Corrina provided information about our services to families enjoying samba music, sports, holistic treatments, hair braiding, inflatables and face painting in the sunshine.

Our teams were recently trained in Making Every Contact Count by Everyone Health. We had lots of lively discussion and practice focussed on helping people to make positive changes to improve their health and wellbeing.


News from our Fundraising Manager

A quick glance through the news headlines can feel really bleak. Loneliness epidemics, our struggling NHS and Social Care system, pubs and other important community facilities closing.


But then I read the feedback from people Care Network has supported – the very real difference that time, kindness and understanding makes, and I can’t help but feel excited for the future.


In April this year I was brought in to make sure we have the funds to continue to be here when people need us.  One of the first things I did was to see what was in place,  then I made sure that it was easy for people who wanted to support us to do so.


I am really pleased to say we have now made it even easier to make a donation by texting CARENETWORK to 70085 to donate £5*  or you can donate here through


Over the next year I will be looking to our supporters, volunteers and staff to help make our fundraising successful. I would love to hear from you if you have any ideas, or would like to get involved. Call me on 01954 211919, or email

* Each text costs your donation amount plus one standard rate message.


Wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do at Care Network and as organisation we aim to improve the wellbeing of all clients, volunteers and staff.

Cate Winters and I continue to work across Cambridgeshire to provide wellbeing support to clients who are experiencing feelings of stress, low mood, mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. We provide strengths-based interventions to help clients identify what they need and would like to do and support and encourage them to achieve their goals. Sometimes we are able to draw on some amazing additional support from volunteers; this really can make a huge difference to a client’s progress – in two recent instances very isolated individuals have been supported to get out and about and both now routinely access community based support and activities, which has really helped improve their lives and how they feel. We are hoping to boost the number of people who volunteer with the Wellbeing Team, so if you are interested in finding out more about this please let me or Azanda Sithole, our Volunteer Lead, know.

Cate will be piloting a fortnightly Wellbeing Booster Group for 6 sessions in March town from September to November, with the support of our excellent volunteer, Charlotte. For more information on the group please contact Cate or myself.  We will hopefully be running something similar in the South of the county in due course.

The staff Wellbeing Working Group is busy hatching plans for staff to engage in some wellbeing related activities in our planned Wellbeing Week in September and Azanda is also planning to restart the popular volunteer and staff wellbeing walks in the different districts soon.

Kate Blackwell, Senior Coordinator, Wellbeing.  01954 774 802

Meet our Trustees – Peter

I work internationally but have always lived in Cambridgeshire as have multiple generations of my family.  I live in Caldecote with my wife and two teenage sons.

My background is product management and business strategy in the information technology, telecommunications, television and Internet markets.  I work for Nokia’s IP and Optical networks business.  We design and build multi-terabit network equipment that powers the internet. The “bits” that made up the page you are reading now probably traversed some of Nokia’s equipment as the largest provider in Europe for Carrier Routers and Metro Optical networks.

In previous roles I have worked on video delivery systems and applications for delivering TV services into people’s homes all over the world, helping Nokia and predecessors win two Emmys.

I have worked on and with a number of business leadership teams from small startups to multi-national telecom companies, preparing materials and data for board and share holder meetings. I bring vast experience from a technology background which is supplementary to the healthcare and business backgrounds of our other board members.

In my spare time I enjoy road cycling, I’m not quite a middle age man in lycra, but I’m probably not far away. I also enjoy cooking with a sous vide and smoker.