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Govan voluntary women’s group facing uncertain future

March 13, 2015

A volunteer-run women’s group in one of Glasgow’s poorest areas is seeking new sources of funding as it approaches its tenth anniversary.

Tea in the Pot (TITP) was established by Govan woman Anne Keegan in 2005 after recognising there was nowhere for women to go in the south Glasgow area if they were dealing with loneliness or social exclusion.

Supported by Oxfam, Anne set up the informal group, at which women could meet without being required to be involved in any statutory services. There, they could chat with other women about their issues, learn a new skill or even just enjoy becoming part of a community, all in a no-preTITP logossure and non-judgemental environment.

New research from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) for the UWS-Oxfam Partnership describes TITP as a ‘great good place’, a place away from work and home that offers a sense of belonging to the women, without the financial pressures to meet in a café, for example, that may be prohibitively expensive for some.

Demand for the service has grown substantially since it was first set-up and between April 2013 and March 2014 nearly 2,000 women attended the drop in – which opens twice a week at the Pearce Institute on Govan Road. Many of the women attending the service are ‘referred’ to it by statutory agencies.

The personalised support offered by TITP wraps around other statutory health, welfare and social care interventions, with no time-limit on the support available. Crucially, this prevents and reduces dependence on costly statutory interventions.

Anne Keegan, who along with long-time friend Ann McGhee runs the project entirely without pay, said: “People have been coming here for years and it’s been a significant help not just to myself, but to everyone who comes.

“For me, I am a lone parent and my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, which can be quite stressful to live with. The best way to help yourself is to help others though, and we’ve proved that.

“This works so well because there are no bosses. We’re all on the same level, despite the fact we all come from different backgrounds and ages, from 16-66. We even have a couple of women in their 80s who attend.

“We do have a laugh. It’s not just about getting through the hard stuff, but about getting your confidence back, becoming part of a community and learning some new skills.

“But we have to get fresh funding. We think it’s really important to keep this running.”

The service currently receives funding from Oxfam, the Robertson Trust and NHS Scotland but is entirely delivered by volunteers. It has become increasingly necessary to source additional money to fund paid staff to place the service on a sustainable financial footing.

Funding pressures mean the group may only be able to continue hiring one of their existing two room facility, losing an essential quiet space for those who feel uncomfortable to join in with larger group discussions. The funding short-fall, including staff costs, is around £110,000 over the next three years.

Dr Maria Feeney, from UWS, carried out the new report on the benefit to the group’s attendees as part of research under the UWS-Oxfam Partnership.

“Our report can’t begin to say how many people this group has helped,” she said. “Because there’s no pressure to talk, women are more inclined to come along and even just sit for a while until they’re comfortable enough to take part. Women come out of their shell here, it changes lives.

“In days gone by, women would use the Steamie to air their washing and their troubles, but there isn’t really a modern day equivalent now.  TITP puts these women in an environment that belongs to them – and our research proves it makes a terrific difference.

“So successful is this, that it should be considered as a model to be applied throughout Scotland. However, it needs to be resourced and it is vital potential funders appreciate the nature and importance of the contribution they are making.”

Echoing that sentiment is Caroline Mockford. Caroline didn’t speak to anyone for six months after being diagnosed with chronic Crohn’s Disease, osteoporosis and depression in 2006. Going to TITP for the first time nine years ago changed that.

She has since completed a social science HNC with the assistance of TITP volunteers, who helped when osteoporosis made writing impossible, and became an active campaigner for social rights, including reinstating public toilets in Govan and successfully leading a five year campaign to end mobile charges for calling NHS 24.

Now working as a volunteer with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, she recently accepted an invitation from the Scottish Government to join the Scottish Food Commission panel.

The 51 year old said: “To be honest, if I hadn’t come to TITP and met Anne and Ann, I would still be sitting in the house. They gave me the confidence to get back into the world.

“The women there understood my problems, they had different issues, but could relate to me. I also felt some people had worse problems – from grannies to young women – and helping them helped me a lot.

“It is an extremely worthwhile group and I hope a regular source of funding can be found to secure its future.”

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