Friday, 19 August 2022

Fish volunteer centre to take on first ever paid employee

THE volunteer centre in Sonning Common is set to employ its first ever member of staff.

Friendship in Sickness and Health expects to be awarded a £12,000 grant by  South Oxfordshire District Council to employ a part-time office manager at the centre in Kennylands Road.

The charity says it needs the role due to the growing demand for its services.

The Fish centre offers bus trips, a befriending service and volunteer drivers for hospital and doctor appointments for people in Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Binfield Heath and Dunsden.

Since the charity was formed in 1978 all the work has been done by volunteers.

Clive Mills, who chairs the charity, said the office manager would help with administration and communications with the support of a new computer system.

The charity, which has about 400 regular users, will find out next month if it has been awarded the full amount it applied to the council for, as recommended by officers who considered it to be a “high priority”.

Mr Mills said: “We are living in an aging community and therefore we are going to have more people needing us for getting to hospital appointments.

“We are so busy now we need to help the volunteers in the office.

“This will be our first ever paid member of staff.  They will work with the volunteers to help make sure our new IT system works properly.” 

The charity is also introduing a digital booking system for its users, which will help reduce the workload on the office volunteers.

Fish will work with Caversham Good Neighbours, which is also a charity and introduced a similar system about four years ago.

Mr Mills, of Shiplake Bottom, said: “I believe the new computer system is necessary. We are getting busier and there are more people going on trips and more people being taken to appointments.

“People will have to get used to the system and it will take time to get it up and running.

“Bringing these sorts of things in takes longer than you think and I am not looking to speed it in. I want it done slowly so everybody is happy with it. It will save an awful lot of time to record information and communicate with drivers. We have been running a befriending service for six months and all those visits need to be recorded, so we know where everybody is and where they should be at the right times.”  

Mr Mills, who made a presentation to councillors with Geoff Ward, the charity’s treasurer, and Fred Nickson, fundraising co-ordinator, said Fish would take on the ongoing cost of the office manager role once the council grant ran out in 2020.

He said: “We are getting so many new users that we will end up paying for the cost ourselves. This is just the start-up cost for the first few years.”

The new office manager who will work about 15 hours a week, will be recruited by current office co-ordinator Mary Norris.

In the last year Fish has carried almost 2,000 passengers and run 200 local shopping trips.

On Thursday the charity will run a trip for a pub lunch with pick-up from home at 11.30am.  This costs £6.

There will be trips to Reading on January 25 and Henley farmers’ market on January 26. Both these collect from home at 9am and are free with a bus pass or £3 without.

To book, call 0118 972 3986. 

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