A Comic Relief-funded programme providing support for victims of domestic abuse in Hackney may be threatened with closure, due to dwindling numbers of older volunteers.
The InterConnect Project, run by Hestia’s Housing and Support group, aims to bring together older volunteers with victims of domestic abuse who live in safe houses in Hackney, by teaching skills such as knitting, cooking and gardening.
The programme, which started in April last year, is funded on the condition that it benefits the over 60s age group as well as younger generations.
Head of Hestia, Nuria de Miguel, said: “Comic Relief funds the project under its ‘Older People Programme’. The idea is that older people can bring about change in their local communities, in this case through helping victims of domestic abuse to rebuild their lives.”
Miguel added: “Volunteers under 60 can’t participate in the programme, but Hestia has lots of other volunteering opportunities such as our Safer Families programme. I usually direct people to that, but I am looking to spread the word and reach and engage with more older people volunteers.”
Marcia Patterson, 63, has been volunteering with Hestia for one year after becoming involved in the programme when she was diagnosed with a cancerous lymphoma: “It makes you see the other side of the coin: some people might sit around feeling sorry for themselves, but there are always people with less than you, who need your support.”
Speaking about the age restriction, Patterson said: “The difference is that people are working longer now – many over 60s can’t retire or spare the time whereas once they could have.”
“Even so, I would encourage anyone to join. Over 50s who are not doing anything at home – there is still plenty to become involved with.”
Comic Relief is funding the project until March 2015, after which Miguel hopes to find other sources.
Patterson said that it would be a great shame to have Comic Relief pull out, but is confident that Hestia would continue its work: “If the funding stopped of course it would be very sad for those I’m helping – the ones I go to see in the safe houses… but there will still be people determined to stay involved. You get around these problems, it just means looking at other ways.”
Hestia is a registered housing support charity that provides domestic abuse services in 11 London boroughs. Its safe houses in Hackney have the capacity for 33 women and 22 children.