Wellsprings together supports organisations in responding effectively to social issues in the community. Liz Firth is the organisation’s Development Worker and Cathy Henwood is the Feeding Bradford Development Worker.
“We’re all about bringing organisations together to share approaches and information, and help people move out of crisis and into a more stable, sustainable future.”
How long have you been involved with Wellsprings Together?
Liz Firth: Well I’ve been involved since the conception.
Cathy Henwood: I got involved much more recently, to focus on the Feeding Bradford aspect of our work but that’s not all we do. We look at exactly what is needed and adapt accordingly.
So what does Wellsprings Together do?
LF: There are quite a few sections to what we do. We don’t work with anyone directly, but we’re part of Church Urban Fund, and we coordinate different organisations. It means that we can support organisations with launching projects, and we can encourage them to communicate with one another and direct them to the best places to get help. We also have a network of 20 ‘places of welcome’, based in churches, Mosques, community centres, and soon a Sikh centre, which offer hospitality to anyone in need.
CH: We’re not a faith organisation and I’m not religious at all. We’re all about bringing organisations together to share approaches and information, and help people move out of crisis and into a more stable, sustainable future. This often involves the work of multiple organisations, because they all have a different focus.
Why do you think the organisation is important?
LF: Obviously we don’t want to take the credit for other organisations’ amazing work, so it’s quite hard to put into words.
CH: I think it’s important because we are the only organisation that work in such a way; someone has to structure and organise the services, because there’s no use having four groups all doing the same thing, and we make it easier for groups to communicate with each other and prevent this from happening.
LF: We’re also involved with bringing projects into Bradford. So for example, an organisation called FareShare was operating in other cities, and I saw how it could benefit Bradford, so I managed to convene a meeting between them and the council, because they couldn’t start working in Bradford without being invited. Once we’d put them in contact I stepped back, because we’re not here to directly interfere, we leave that to the people who really know what they’re doing. We just make sure organisations talk to each other and make sure their resources are being used the best way they can.
“Someone has to structure and organise the services.”
Have you witnessed a growing need for the services on offer?
LF: Absolutely, but I think the reasons for this are quite complex. I think partly there’s more available than ever before – there are food banks, feeding projects, low cost mini markets –
CH: Community centres running low cost family teas, pay as you feel cafes. There’s a lot more on offer than there was five years ago.
LF: Definitely, but the increase in provision is also a response to an increase in demand, and the demand is still increasing. Even with all this on offer, organisations are still stretched, and we have to work to bring the provision together, and identify gaps and overlaps.
Have you noticed the impact of the decommissioning of local services?
LF: It doesn’t directly impact us but working with so many providers enables us to see the bigger picture, and we’ve definitely already seen and experienced cuts to the third sector. I know of organisations either having to close or make workers redundant because they’re struggling with funds.
CH: Areas like Bradford really are being hit by the reduction of central government funds and will consider to suffer. A lot of people are in insecure or poorly paid work which means the council tax revenue isn’t huge, and when universal credit is rolled out in April we’re expecting similar issues to those faced by other places. Emergency services will face a lot of pressure.
“There’s a lot more on offer than there was five years ago. Even with all this on offer, organisations are still stretched, and we have to work to bring the provision together, and identify gaps and overlaps.”
Are there any plans to expand the work of Wellsprings Together?
CH: Well we were recently invited to join the Feeding Britain network, which encompasses 13 organisations. That enables us to inform national campaigns about the situation in Bradford, and help collaborate with national evidence gathering. It also means we can look at the work of other areas and borrow ideas, as well as sharing our own.
LF: We’re also looking at getting to grips with figures. We want to work out how many people are in and out of food poverty compared with how many are in food poverty permanently. Hopefully research like that will help us know more about what services are needed most.
CH: And we want to look more at food poverty in school children and explore the opt out of free school meals system, which we know has worked in other areas.
What do you find most rewarding about this work?
LF: Everything. Just everything, it’s ace. Making a difference like this is just the best. It’s amazing being able to do this as your job.
CH: I really love being able to see all the work of the organisations. We can see that there are so many good people trying to help. And just noticing little changes that show how much people care – food banks have started giving out parcels in shopping bags rather than white bags to reduce the shame for those using the service. It just gives people a little more dignity and reduces the negative stigma attached to benefits and asking for help.
LF: And of course, every day is different. You can never make a rigid plan because it will always change.
“Making a difference like this is just the best. It’s amazing being able to do this as your job.”
More information about Wellsprings Together and their work can be found here –