A partnership project between the University of Derby and Derbyshire Voluntary Action (DVA) is reflecting on the impact it has made within the health and social care sector after creating almost 4,000 ‘meaningful connections’ across Chesterfield.
Community Chesterfield, which is nearing the end of its third year, links up the skills, knowledge and experience at the University of Derby with those of the voluntary and community sector (VCS) and has been a vital support network in the area since its launch in 2019.
The ‘meaningful connections’ between VCS organisations and the University is where the activity organised brings benefits to both. They have included Expert by Experience sessions, which have seen the project connect individuals from voluntary and community sector groups with university staff and students to share their lived experience.
Around 2250 students from the University of Derby have met 57 Experts by Experience, covering topics including family carers, medication management, mental health issues and hearing and sight loss.
Over the last three years, Community Chesterfield has also helped to successfully increase funding for local VCS groups by more than £110,000 as a result of the skills and knowledge they have gained through their involvement with the project.
The project’s online training model also continued to thrive, having delivered more than one thousand training hours in the last 12 months alone and 2271 hours in total since the start of the project. The sessions have been attended by more than 140 local health and social care sector organisations.
After assessing the need based on conversations and feedback from groups, Community Chesterfield also added in a provision for e-learning courses, as well as the project’s popular Training and Tea model – a series of 45-minute sessions at a regular day and time slot.
In addition to the popular training sessions, more than 570 participants attended shared learning workshops. These workshops, which include the Connect and Reflect sessions, aim to connect the community, the health and social care sector and the University to allow them to discuss, learn from and reflect on the common experiences we each have.
Jennifer Raschbauer, Community Chesterfield’s project manager, said: “The aim of our project has always been to bring together the University of Derby with the local community to create a resourceful, experienced and knowledgeable health and social care sector in Chesterfield.
“Despite having to negotiate through the ever-changing landscape because of the pandemic, we are extremely proud what we have achieved in the last three years and the visible positive impact with have had on the local VCS sector.
“By providing these valuable opportunities for the VCS and university to come together, we have been able to strengthen the skills of the local workforce in this sector, enabling them to be more resilient in the future and to provide the best possible support to their service users.
“As we look to the future of the Community Chesterfield project, we are excited to both cement and increase the connections we have made in the local community. We have plans to widen the reach of the work we do, which is an exciting prospect and will allow us to create more opportunities for more people across Chesterfield.”
Community Chesterfield has also facilitated 63 students to provide support to a variety of local VCS groups and supported more than 60 students on their negotiated module, where they can select a subject area of interest to them that’s not covered in the curriculum and which introduced them to a number of local charities and voluntary groups.
In addition, the project has organised five internships and 15 work placements and skills days, as well enabling the creation of one academic publication.
For more information about Community Chesterfield visit www.communitychesterfield.org.uk.
Community Chesterfield supports the marketing and economic growth of the town through Chesterfield Champions, a network of over 200 organisations across Chesterfield and North Derbyshire.