Climate Change – taking positive action together

By Sally Page. January 2022

CCVS team members volunteered for a morning, planting trees with Cambridge Past, Present & Future

As a voluntary sector organisation CCVS have committed to take positive climate action through becoming a signatory of the Cambridge Climate Change Charter. 

We recognise that the growing climate emergency is a serious risk to the success of our operations and to the future wellbeing of our staff, our stakeholders and the wider community, and are determined to take positive action. 

We signed the Cambridge Climate Change Charter to demonstrate our commitment to tackling the causes of climate change and want you to join us, the more organisations that take positive climate action, the bigger the difference we can make.

Cambridge Climate Change Charter, what’s it all about?

The Charter gives individuals, households, businesses and organisations the opportunity to understand their carbon emissions and how to reduce them, providing a platform to make a pledge to take positive action. Launched in 2020 by the Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Carbon Footprint, the Charter has engaged with numerous individuals, businesses and organisations and we are proud to say that we have added our voice to this growing community of local climate leaders.  

As an organisation we understand that we have a unique opportunity to act as climate leaders in the community through the action we take and through empowering and supporting customers, staff, stakeholders and other businesses. The Cambridge City Council declared a climate emergency back in February 2019 and has set a target for Cambridge to be net zero by 2030. We strongly believe that businesses and organisations have a key role to play in the city’s journey to net zero and in building a sustainable future for all in Cambridge and beyond. Over the next 12 months we will be working hard to measure and report our emissions, starting to decarbonise our operations, and will be demonstrating climate leadership.

What are CCVS already doing? 

We have started this process by updating our Environmental Policy and creating an Action Plan to bring in positive change and keep track of our progress. These positive changes include nominating a Green Champion and putting in place ways to record our footprint, both in the office and when working from home. We have introduced staff initiatives such as the bike to work scheme and made individual pledges, that we shared on social media platforms. Pledges included buying second-hand clothes, planting trees, reducing our food waste, walking more, and improving our house insulation. In addition, some of the team volunteered with Cambridge Past, Present & Future to plant some trees! It was a lovely way to catch-up with colleagues, spend time in nature and have a positive impact on our local environment.

How can you get involved? Join us in taking positive climate action.

Contact us for advice or support in writing or updating your Environmental Policy or Action Plan by emailing the team on enquiries@cmabridgecvs.org.uk.

Attend our upcoming Coffee Briefing by Cambridge Carbon Footprint on 16 February at 10am. This free, informal 20-minute session will introduce you the Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s Charter and act as a great opportunity to ask questions about how your organisation can reduce its environmental impact. Book your place today.

Find out more about how you can make a difference through the Charter as an individual, household, business or organisation and how to join a community of climate leaders in Cambridge, by exploring Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s Charter webpages

Mental health matters. You matter.

By Lorna Gough. January 2022

How important is yours and your team’s mental health and wellbeing to your organisation?

Hopefully it’s top of the priority list.

However, wanting it to be top of the list, and actually making time to ensure steps are taken to protect and enhance your own, and your team’s mental health may not always feel easy.

One in four adults in England have at some time been diagnosed with mental illnesses, while one in five, report experiencing mental health issues without a diagnosis.1 Workplaces are seeing ever increasing stress levels, especially during the last two years negotiating a way through the pandemic.

It’s vital that we all play our part in helping to keep ourselves and our colleagues as mentally healthy as possible.

The World Health Organisation 2014 statement defines mental health as:

“A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.”

Here at CCVS we take health and wellbeing seriously.

We look out for each other.

We make sure we have occasional (Covid permitting) face to face meet ups, with a walk (usually ending with a cuppa and cake!)

We have weekly coffee time catch ups, where we chat for 15 to 30 minutes about random every day, non work-related things. (Recent topics have included the fact that such a thing as penguin covered gaffer tape exists; luxury dog beds; cats sleeping in flowerpots; and the childhood trick of ‘apple-pie-ing’ sibling’s beds. Readers of a more mature age may know what I’m talking about here, it’s a bed which, as a practical joke has one of the sheets folded back on itself so the person cannot straighten their legs when they get into bed – sorry little brother! Being the only boy in the family, with three sisters, my brother put up with a lot!)

CCVS has recently taken two positive steps to improve how we look after ourselves and our team.

  1. We have created and implemented an organisational health and wellbeing strategy which states:

A healthy workplace is where everyone feels able to share that they’re having a bad day, with no feeling of stigma, where spending 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes, away from a desk for self-care is an investment in wellbeing, which will enhance work in the long run.  

A workplace where the team spend time together, if they feel comfortable doing so, taking part in occasional activities to benefit wellbeing and build strength as a healthy team. (Demonstrated by our recent participation in the volunteer tree planting session with Cambridge Past, Present and Future)

The strategy lays out ways in which we can look after ourselves, and what we can do if we’re having a bad day. Every week we share a wellbeing tip in our Slack (communication platform) channel. There is no obligation to take part, or to feedback. We agree to be non-judgemental, respectful, and maintain confidentiality.

The wellbeing tips include suggestions such as :

  • Sit outside and listen for 10 sounds 
  • Sit outside and look for 20 things 
  • Pick up a book and read for 15 minutes 
  • Write down what has gone well for you this week 
  • Do 15 minutes of exercise 

Spending time away from the screen, and from work tasks, concentrating mindfully on something else for a short period of time is a way of relieving stress. Doing something enjoyable like listening to the birds outside can be a real mood booster.

Encouraging the team to take breaks and emphasising that taking time for ourselves is not only permitted, but positively encouraged, gives us all confidence that our health is important, and that it’s ok to invest time in staying well. What a wonderful positive message that gives to us all, that we matter, our health and our wellbeing matters

2. One of our team has completed the Mental Health First Aider certificate training. That’s me.

Over the last two weeks I’ve attended the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England course. MHFA England has a goal to train 1 in 10 adults in the UK in Mental Health First Aid. The number currently stands at 1 in 56. Good progress is being made, but there is still a way to go. The more people that understand, and can support those struggling with poor mental health, the better.

The course, which is either two full days, or four half day sessions, plus a number of hours of additional coursework, empowers attendees to provide initial support to those developing mental health issues or in mental health crisis.

A mix of tutorials, discussions, activities, and case studies make the course interesting and interactive. Even though some of the content is emotive, it is covered in a sensitive way with no pressure to take part in any activities you may find upsetting.

I thoroughly recommend the course to anyone feeling undecided about it and encourage organisations to consider enrolling a team member onto a MHFA course.

In the meantime, the MHFA England website, contains a wealth of resources and information for all.

If you would like to know more about our health and wellbeing strategy, and what you can do for your own team and organisation, to promote better mental health, do get in touch: lorna@cambridgecvs.org.uk

A mentally healthy community, is a productive and creative community.2

1MHFA England statistics.

2MHFA England quote

12 Days of Christmas – sharing Christmas appeals, initiatives and information

By Lorna Gough. Communications Worker. December 2021.

Leading up to Christmas, the CCVS team decided we would like to highlight some of the wonderful ways in which local organisations are supporting our community this year. From putting together hampers, to distributing gifts, and selling Christmas Trees, the Cambridgeshire Voluntary Sector community is doing what it does best – helping people in times of need. We’re also including non local voluntary initiatives which can be accessed locally or online.

This year Christmas will be particularly hard for so many families.

As many of us sit down to a delicious Christmas meal, followed by an evening of good company, family games, Christmas TV and plenty of sweets, nuts and chocolates, there will be many people hidden behind closed doors, or out on the street, struggling to make the day any different to their every day. Struggling to give their families a day to remember, a treat, a festive time. Struggling to get warm, stay warm, and to lift their mood enough to get through the day. Struggling to feel hope, let alone joy.

Individuals and families may be battling poor health – mentally and physically, financial hardship, loneliness and desperation, grief, homelessness, displacement, or domestic abuse. The rise in the cost of energy, cuts to universal credit, food shortages and the rise in day-to-day cost of living will be compounding those struggles.

Thanks to the hard work of our local voluntary organisations, some light relief will be on its way to many of those in need in our community.

We’re sharing links to some of the local appeals, initiatives and support we’ve been made aware of, as well as products available to buy. The non local opportunities may be of interest to anyone looking at new things to get involved with. The list is not exhaustive and there are bound to be some we’ve missed. If you’d like to share details of something you know about, we’d be happy to add to this list.

Email lorna@cambridgecvs.org.uk with ’12 days of Christmas’ in the subject line, and a link to the appropriate website.

Appeals and Christmas products

Abbey People – Christmas Hamper Appeal.

Cherry Hinton Food Hub and Community Fridge Christmas Donations

Addenbrookes Charitable Trust Christmas hamper appeal

Arthur Rank Christmas Tree recycling scheme

Red hen Project – 5 ways to help a child in need this Christmas

PhoenixMilton are selling Christmas Trees and other Christmas related products such as wooden crates for hampers and gifts

Cruse Bereavement Support – Grieving at Christmas

Cambridge City Council – Food Poverty Alliance Christmas Gifts for vulnerable families

Migrateful – online cookery classes and work Christmas online parties, as well as catering options.

Romsey Mill Christmas appeal for Aspire, their work with local autistic young people and their families.. 

Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal

Where to go for help in a mental health crisis:

Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind.

Lifecrafts LifeLine service

The Samaritans

Call 111 and press option 2 for the First Response Service

Zoom in on zoom session – Volunteering for All

By Ellie Lee, Volunteering Development Worker and Amy, CCVS Volunteer. November 2021

Recently, we, (Amy and Ellie) organised the first online session dedicated to supporting people with disabilities to find out about volunteering.

In preparation we produced some stylish slides to help us remember what we wanted to say and to remind us to introduce ourselves. (It would not have been the first time I, Ellie, failed to introduce myself and just started to talk! 😊)

During the session we explained our roles, Ellie’s as the Volunteering Development worker at CCVS and Amy’s as an incredible CCVS volunteer who has been with the project since it was born. Ellie talked about how she supports clients, inviting them to a 1:1 interview, to help them untangle doubts about volunteering and encourage them to explore different opportunities.

Amy did a great job of explaining how important volunteering is to her and talked about all the roles she is currently undertaking. She volunteers in an EACH (East Anglia Children’s Hospice) charity shop in Cambridge, she assists at two Tai Chi classes, she helps organise the Funky Club (a night club for people with disabilities), and of course, she is a valuable CCVS volunteer and helps Ellie organise events such as the volunteer Walk and Talk and online sessions. Amy also produces articles and media content. Keep an eye out for Amy’s future blogs for more details of her volunteer roles.

We met some very enthusiastic people at our first online session, some of whom are already volunteering, and some who want to begin to get involved with local community projects.

There are many different options for volunteering and attendees shared experiences, and inspiring reasons for getting involved. We discussed the many benefits of volunteering, how rewarding it can be, and how it can improve confidence and skills. People often think that very specific and professional skills are required, but we also discussed how everyone has skills to offer, even though they may not be aware of them. Lived experience, empathy and enthusiasm make a good foundation.

We encouraged everyone to think about how to start their volunteer journey and had a conversation about breaking it down into manageable steps. By the end of the session, we were able to point one participant in the direction of one of our lovely local charities, and by the end of the day a meeting had already been arranged.

We’d like to thank everyone who joined us and for their enthusiasm and interaction.

We were both very happy with the first trial session, and we are looking forward to many more!

Do get in touch if you would like to join us in future.

Ellie and Amy

Real Living Wage – what is it and why is it important?

By Sally Page. Development Worker & Digital Partnership Co-ordinator. November 2021.

The Real Living Wage (RLW) is the only UK hourly wage rate based on the actual cost of living and has recently increased by 40 pence to £9.90 per hour. If you live in London, it is £11.05 per hour. The Real Living Wage rates are higher than national minimum wage because they are independently calculated and based on what people need to get by.  

The Real Living Wage Foundation have an accreditation scheme for organisations who pay the RLW to their employees and contractors. This gives organisations a way to demonstrate that they are committed to fair pay and employers’ rights, whilst also helping to raise awareness on a political and national level.  

CCVS are proud to have become a Living Wage Employer and we hope your organisation will join us by becoming one too.  

What did CCVS have to do to become accredited?  

The process of becoming accredited was straightforward for CCVS as the Living Wage was already paid to staff and contractors which meant that we did not need to change payrolls or contracts before applying.  

We expressed an interest in becoming accredited via the Living Wage Foundation website. Once we received more information from the foundation, we completed the license agreement, which is the formal application for accreditation. The form asked for information about our staff and pay structure, but it only took about ten minutes to complete. 

Within a few days, our application was approved, and we received a £60 invoice to pay for the first year, before officially becoming accredited. The payment was made, thanks to a grant by Cambridge City Council. The foundation sent us a wealth of marketing resources, to help us share the good news, including our lovely Living Wage Employer Plaque, which we received in the post and promptly fixed to our office wall.  

Real Living Wage employer plaque. It is a glass plaque with the CCVS logo and Real Living Wage Employer logo. 
The text on the plaque reads; We are a Living Wage Employer. The Living Wage Foundation is proud to award the Living Wage Employer mark to CCCVS. This organisation is an accredited Living Wage Employer.

How can we help your organisation become accredited? 

There are a couple of keyways CCVS can help your organisation become accredited.  

Firstly, we are proud to be working with Cambridge City Council to administrate grants, available to cover the initial accreditation cost for Cambridge based voluntary organisations.  

The grant process could not be more straightforward. Simply contact CCVS to let us know you would like to apply for accreditation. We will double check that the funds are available, and once we have confirmed, you can go ahead with your application. When you receive the invoice for becoming accredited, you forward it to us at CCVS, and we pay the fee for you, easy peasey! 

As always, we are here to help. If you need to make salary changes to pay the Real Living Wage, you may need support with the process, or you might want a sounding board to talk things through, ahead of applying. Whatever your query, reach out and we can have a chat. It might be that we put you in touch with the Living Wage Foundation directly, or answer your questions there and then, but no matter what, we are here to provide support.  

With the cost of living going up, the need to take action to enable better pay across our sector is as vital as ever. Whilst this is just one cog in the wheel, if you join us in becoming a Living Wage Employer you will be contributing towards Cambridge becoming a fairer city, and that can only be a good thing. 

Get in touch  

Email: enquiries@cambridge.org.uk   

The Living Wage Foundation website www.livingwage.org.uk