Councillor Damian Talbot

Executive Member – Public Health, Prevention and Wellbeing

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to say a few words of introduction at today’s conference, before you move into the first workshops.

I think when we talk about people, participation and health this is very much about acknowledging the health value of taking part both in society and in social activities of all kinds.

I know that one of the focuses of Community CVS is very much, volunteering. And as someone who has worked with the voluntary sector, formally and informally, for many years I can vouch first hand as to the positive impact that this has on both the physical and mental wellbeing and health of those involved.

As you’ll be aware, the Health and Wellbeing Board is required to produce a Joint Local Health and Wellbeing Strategy. I have here the strategy for 2023 to 2028. The main focuses of the strategy are:

  • Best start in life
  • Healthy homes, places and communities
  • Good quality work and maximising income
  • Positive ageing and independence in later life
  • Dying well

What all these priorities speak to is PREVENTION.

And we know that as a Borough we face some of the toughest health challenges in the country. With higher levels of deprivation, lower than average levels of physical activity, poorer health outcomes.

ln many cases our residents are already struggling with physical and mental health challenges. For those people our priority has to be to ensure access to the best possible medical care.

But if we can be in a position of ensuring people remain in better health from an earlier age then we know we can avoid many of the chailenges we are facing.

Volunteering, ‘participation’ is sometimes branded as ‘doing unpaid work’.

l’d always challenge this assertion. Volunteering is nothing new – what might now be described as ‘volunteering’ could historically have been described as ‘hobbies’. I’m sure if you were to ask to a volunteer on the East Lancs Steam Railway if they considered what they were doing was some kind of burdensome ‘work’ they’d say nonsense. Likewise with the many volunteers who help run countless amateur sports clubs around our borough and further afield.

And even where that volunteering might be considered ‘less glamorous’, such as litter picking, we have literally more than 1000 people involved across our borough – freely and out of their own choice. They gain satisfaction from their voluntary work.

The truth is volunteering/participating without doubt gives as much satisfaction to the person doing the participation as to those who benefit from that work. Not only satisfaction in the achievement – but a sense of purpose that is bigger than just going to work each day in order to get a wage to pay the bills.

Life really is more than work, eat, sleep repeat.

As some of you might know, and I think I’ve mentioned in the past – I’m a volunteer that has been involved in working to establish a community festival in my ward, Mill Hill. Coincidentally our festival took place last Saturday.

We have a very small volunteer committee – only about 5 of us regularly involved. We’ve had stress and ups and downs over the course of the last year – would we raise enough money, would the weather be good, would there be any incidents on the day, would enough people come, would too many people come. In the end, as shown by the front page of yesterday’s newspaper, the
festival was a roaring success. The satisfaction it has given those of us involved cannot be bottled. The work we put in was probably worth maybe £10-20,000 if you were to pay an external consultant (maybe even more). But to see the enjoyment of the several thousand people in attendance – hundreds of them children – many from not well off backgrounds – truly made the whole effort worth it. And the challenges we all faced have actually helped us with life skills that can be applied equally to work situations.

I don’t have statistics on the positive health impact of participation. But I do have these anecdotes and I’ve seen first hand how much individuals extend their healthy lives by participation.

I will always champion volunteering and participation. Our borough would be a far poorer place without it.

Thank you once again. I hope and trust that you will have an enjoyable and productive day.