In 1988 the then Councillor
, Mrs Marion Drake, put wheels in motion to start a Good Neighbour
Scheme when she realized that this area, unlike most districts in Cardiff, did not have the benefit of such an organization. The aim of the Scheme was to help the elderly and infirm with small neighbourly
tasks – shopping, letter writing, befriending, changing library books, local transport etc. In 1989 the first May Tea was held during the Radyr
Festival for the senior residents in the community. Volunteers made sandwiches and cakes and provided transport for many of the guests. Between 45 and 70 residents have attended this joyous occasion every year since then; Bryn Deri
School have provided entertainment and the May Queen and attendants have always visited. In 1992 a weekly coffee morning was started, a chance to get out of the house meet some friends and have a chat. 1993 saw the first Friday lunch in The Old Church Rooms, senior residents could meet friends as well as being provided with a hot meal, cooked by volunteers. Those who were too frail to come under their own steam were picked up by volunteer drivers. Every special occasion has been celebrated Birthdays, Jubilees, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Royal Weddings, Christmas and many, many more.
Over the years the Scheme expanded to cover Danescourt and when the boundaries changed Gwaelod, Pentyrch and Creigiau were encompassed. The name change to Radyr and District Good Neighbours and in 1998 a second lunch club started in Pentyrch.
Over the years the main source of funding has been from Cardiff County Council with small grants from the two Community Councils in our area and from other organizations for specific events. Long before the recession, in 2002, Cardiff Council stopped the small annual rise. (In effect a cut) In 2011 Radyr and Morganstown festival donated all money raised to Good Neighbours and so thanks to a lot of hard work from the local community our much depleted coffers were replenished. Last year the grant was cut by 10% at the last minute. This year we have been advised that with effect from the 1st April our grant will cease completely. Without that Grant the Scheme cannot continue. The grant pays one part-time employee and the general costs associated with running a small office.
Over the twenty six years that the scheme has been in place hundreds of local senior residents have been helped and have enjoyed the many social events which have been organized by the scheme. The scheme has brought the youngest and oldest members of the community together enabling the senior residents to see the positive side of the young, not just the negative stereo types the media like to portray. Volunteers have freely given thousands of hours in helping the local community and very few have claimed expenses. Without the support of the Good Neighbours organization and co-ordinator the lunch clubs coffee morning and other activities cannot continue.Sadly the Radyr diners will not be having a 21st birthday celebration. Nearly half of the diners attending the lunch club are transported by local volunteers, for some it can be the only time they are able to leave the house.
We all appreciate that the council have to make huge financial cuts to operate effectively. However, at a time when we are hearing that many elderly people who visit their doctor with depression are actually lonely this decision will affect many senior, local residents. This Scheme and the one in Llanishen are the only two independent schemes and they are also the only two Good Neighbours Schemes to lose their grants, despite being the cheapest to run and this scheme being the only one that runs lunch clubs. Over the years I have been to numerous meetings where the comment has been “Oh Radyr, the rich, green, leafy suburb, they do not need any help” I cannot help but wonder if the thinking is entirely financial. While we can all acknowledge that this area of Cardiff is not deprived compared with other areas that does not mean there are no residents in real need of the type of support the scheme has provided. Not everyone in our communities is well off and some of the neediest are the most elderly and vulnerable.
Finally, a huge thank you to all of our volunteers, past and present; thank you to the current County Councillor Rod McKerlich and the committee who have worked very hard on our behalf exploring all avenues for funding; to all organizations, groups and individuals (all too numerous to mention) for the help and support which they have given us over the years and to Marion Drake who’s initial idea has helped the elderly in this small leafy suburb have a better quality of life in their autumn years for the past twenty six years.