Earlier this year (20 Feb, to be exact), BBC TV`s Inside Out programme visited Cotmanhay, said to be the most deprived area in Derbyshire.
Presenter Marie Ashby noted that a quick trawl through the BBC`s archives showed that news teams only ever seemed to visit in pursuit of bad news. The Inside Out programme actually broke with that tradition, looking at the work of the Cotmanhay-based Erewash Community Concern.
Without wanting to sound cliched, this excellent organisation was formed `by local people for local people`, and has managed to recruit a `workforce` of 65 volunteers.
The basic way the charity works is that volunteers perform a variety of tasks in the community, usually to help elderly residents, and in so doing, acquire new skills and work experience.
Their work with the elderly has helped many local people who would otherwise be in care stay in their own homes. However, their efforts are not confined to the elderly as they provide support for young parents and assistance to those in the area who need help to undertake courses.
The group has been the subject of a study by academics Irene Hardill and Sue Baines, `Broadening the Base of the Volunteer Workforce` (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council*) and Professor Hardill appeared on the programme to describe them as "the Big Society from the bottom up". My natural instinct is to poke fun at that sort of thing, but on reflection, maybe it`s not such a bad description.
Funding comes in the form of private donations, suport from the Lottery etc and from the efforts of the volunteers providing DIY/laundry/gardening services in the surrounding area on a non-charitable basis in order to raise money.
ECC`s website is a touch out of date (they`re looking to launch a more up-to-date site in the not-too-distant future), but they can be found at www.communityconcernerewash.co.uk . Inside Out can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/insideout and www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tj7z and is that rare beast, a BBC current affairs programme that actually understands the world outside Westminster !
*The Economic and Social Research Council are at www.esrc.ac.uk , for anyone who wants to see the report.