Hackney’s charities and community groups will soon be competing for a share of £5.8 million from the Big Lottery Fund and it is Hackney residents aged 50 and over who will decide which of their projects are funded. Older residents from the local Chinese community and also other minority communities are already getting involved in the voting sessions where real decision making power is in the hands of the local population.
The scheme, Connect Hackney, has received a grant of £5.8million to fund a six year programme to reduce and prevent the social isolation of older people. In the first two years £1.2million is being awarded to local not for profit groups to provide activities that will support the lives of older people and respect their different experiences and cultures. Which projects get funded will be decided through a system called ‘participatory budgeting’, where local people aged 50 and over will vote for their favourite ideas. Both the projects and the voters will reflect the diversity of the older population in Hackney.
“It’s a more democratic system,” says Shirley Murgraff, chair of Connect Hackney’s steering group. “Participatory budgeting involves people, letting them know what’s going on locally and also making them feel a kind of ownership of a really good service that’s going to help older people.”
Murgraff is confident that Connect Hackney will increase the voice and influence of older people in the borough. “We want to be where the decisions are made on services or aspects of life that affect older people – it’s part of ‘nothing about me without me.” she says.
Any Hackney resident aged 50 and over will be able to vote, with postal votes available for those who can’t attend face-to-face sessions.
Connect Hackney will also be training older people in campaigning and communications skills including print journalism, photography and website management. They will become part of a team of older people writing and producing stories about Connect Hackney funded projects and the lives of local older people – stories that show older people as a diverse group of active and talented individuals with unique experiences and opinions. Connect Hackney will also support older people to campaign and comment on issues affecting them.
If you are a Hackney resident from the Chinese/East Asian community aged over 50 and would like to find out more about this and other ways to get involved please contact Annie Hooper: 020 7241 9403 or 07958 168 893.