We were warmly welcomed to the lunch, where we were volunteering, by Mary, the chairperson of the group.
The group began in 2006 as a monthly drop in for the elderly Irish community, and in 2007 the lunch club began, where the members would have a chance to socialise and make new friends while enjoying an affordable hot meal. The club offers the opportunity for people to get out and meet new people, and, for some of the members who attend, this club is the only opportunity they have to get out and meet new people.
The group members take it in turns helping out with serving the food and the meal itself is cooked by members of the group who volunteer each week.
Their aim is to ease the social isolation for elderly people who may not have any other chances to socialise. The club is a way of reaching those who may otherwise be socially excluded within the local community. The group also offer ‘Keep-Fit’ sessions before the lunch, and the services of a Welfare Officer, Paula Cusack. Paula helps the members of the club with many different sorts of problems they are facing, including helping some people who are having difficulty filling in forms online. This was one of the issues that came to light as we talked to Mary and Paula; people struggling to apply online for things like bus passes. The move to these only being accessible online has made it difficult for some of the people at the club to still have access, as they have no experience in using computers. Paula helps people through these processes as well as other areas that they may need help with, for example claiming benefits and health and wellbeing issues.
Milton Keynes Irish Welfare is one of the largest lunch clubs in Milton Keynes, with around 230 members. They pride themselves in being able to offer a hot meal every Wednesday which includes a juice/sherry, lunch, pudding and tea/coffee and biscuits. The members also run their own weekly raffle and bingo and hold regular tombola’s and book sales; 50% of the profits go to their nominated charity, and the other 50% goes back into the Welfare group to go towards trips and social events for their members.
MK Community Foundation have recently supported Milton Keynes Irish Welfare Support Group for an outing to Wicksteed Park for the Christmas Show, including a lunch and afternoon tea. The group have also taken part in our Community Car Raffle for the past few years.
Find out more about Milton Keynes Irish Welfare Support Group by going to their website at: http://irishwelfaremk.co.uk/