Meet Alice, our new Asylum Seeker Development Worker

Alice Sheppard recently joined us as our new Asylum Seeker Community Development Worker.  Alice will be helping people seeking asylum and refugees to integrate into their local community by linking them with services and activities.

Alice is also here to network with other organisations to support asylum seekers. If you would like to connect with Alice to get involved with the project call 07874 857283 or email [email protected].

Warmth Matters Helpline Launches

Our Warmth Matters project aims to tackle fuel poverty across Surrey by providing energy advice and assistance, from helping families struggling with energy bills payments to empowering individuals to take action, such as switching supplier, signing up for new grants and schemes, and providing homeowners with the knowledge and advice they need to make their homes more energy-efficient.

Our team now operate a new helpline for people who need help with their energy bills, open every Monday between 10:00am-2:00pm and who are unable to attend our pop-up advice sessions at Warm Welcome venues across Surrey. Call 07442 482284 for free, impartial advice.

Click here for dates and locations of Warm Welcome energy advice sessions.

New MECC Training

MECC – Making Every Contact Count.

MECC is an approach to behaviour change that uses everyday conversations between organisations and people, to help support them to make positive changes towards a healthy lifestyle. MECC conversations can be started in a wide range of settings by both public facing staff and by volunteers. MECC training ensures teams are equipped to have brief conversations with others about their health and wellbeing and are confident to signpost people to further advice and support.

Dianne Roberts at Surrey Community Actionis now a MECC trainer and can offer MECC level 1 training to organisations and groups who may be interested. The course can be offered on zoom or Face to Face and lasts three hours. MECC is not an add-on to what staff/ volunteers already do. Instead, it is a style or a way of approaching and structuring a conversation so that it is brief and effective.

MECC training benefits staff/volunteers by providing them with an opportunity for development, enabling them to feel valued and supported, improving their own awareness of health and wellbeing, and increasing their knowledge and motivation.

Service users gain personal and tailored support, show improved confidence, motivation and wellbeing, and reduced health inequalities, as a result of MECC conversations.

For further information or to book a training session contact: Dianne Roberts via email to [email protected] or call 07864 060205

Woking Sparks Fund Grants Awarded

We are pleased to share details of the projects awarded funding as part of the Woking Sparks Fund, within the Wards of Goldsworth Park and Canalside. Projects are getting underway and we look forward to sharing more updates soon.

The recipients are:

St Andrew’s Church- Supporting ‘Andy’s Community Café’ which welcomes in excess of 100 people per week, as well as the Community Cupboard, toddler groups and baby groups.

1st Goldsworth Park Scout Group- An overnight activity camp, supporting young people to learn life skills whilst having fun and making lifelong friendships.

Lakeview Community Action Group- continuing the delivery of the ‘Lift Up Together’ group providing mental health support and activities, providing a vital service for residents of Lakeview Estate.

Canalside Community Fridge- supporting volunteers’ costs and training, for the health and safety of service users.

MASCOT -Maybury & Sheerwater Community Trust – assisting with the costs associated with providing activity sessions to support client’s IT skills, employability, language skills, and emergency support.

Shifa Network- a 6-week programme of ‘Learn to Swim’ 2-hour sessions for ethnically diverse women from the local community, held at a local School.

St Michael’s Church Sheerwater- supporting the ‘Pop up Café’. An afterschool club for families, providing healthy snacks and refreshments with the chance to enjoy crafts, games, stories and sport activities. Activity Packs will also be provided for the summer holidays.

Home-Start Runnymede and Woking- Establishing ‘Baby Bubble’- a weekly group for up to 30 mums and babies to support parental experiences, provide information, advice and signposting to other services.

Woking Tigers- facilitating ‘Youth Night’ at the Sheerwater Youth Centre on Friday Nights.

1000 People Learn GRT History

Crystal’s Vardo performed to over 1,000 people, in Kingston, as part of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.

Kingston Council and Surrey Community Action organised four performances of Crystal’s Vardo, three in schools in Kingston and one at St Mary’s University (Twickenham) as part of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month (GRTHM). GRTHM is held every year, for the whole of June, and is an opportunity to come together to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Crystal’s Vardo is a captivating and inspiring production in which a young girl named Crystal travels through time on an extraordinary journey through Romani history.   Brimming with a wealth of colourful characters, humour, music and storytelling, Crystal’s Vardo brings to life the rich tapestry of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history and culture.  The aim of the play is to raise awareness of the persecution of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities through the centuries and to reflect on the ways this manifests as anti-Gypsyism today.

The performances were thoroughly enjoyed by all ages, Mrs Keogh Headteacher of Ellingham Primary School said ‘It was an incredibly moving and educational depiction of the Gypsy & Traveller history. The children were so engaged and we can’t thank the theatre group enough’. The Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Diane White, also joined us for one of the productions.

Watch the video here




Staines Helping Hands Launches

We were delighted to join Staines Helping Hands to celebrate their official launch last month. Staines Helping Hands is a local charitable organisation set up by volunteers for the help and benefit of those living in the TW18 Staines-upon-Thames area. They provide help with:

Our Good neighbours Scheme Adviser, Vicki Turton has helped the group to get off the ground with plenty of expert advice and support. If you would like to set up a scheme in Surrey, get in touch!

My First Rural Housing Week

Rural Housing Week (3-7 July), is an annual campaign, ran by the National Housing Federation to highlight the importance of local housing for creating sustainable communities. This year the focus is on ‘building a better future for rural communities’.

This is my first Rural Housing Week as the Rural Housing Enabler for Surrey so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and you invite you to get in touch should you wish to work together to deliver local, affordable homes in your community. My name is Nicola and I’m Surrey Community Action’s Rural Housing Enabler.


On Monday 3rd July the focus was on Rural Homelessness. I attended a webinar on the issue which was also attended by by one of the co-writers of the report ‘Homelessness in the Countryside -A hidden Crisis’’, March 2023, Carin Tunaker, from the University of Kent ( Jointly researched by the University of Southampton). This report highlighted that there has been a 24% rise in the levels of rough sleeping in rural areas in just 1 year.

“There are more places to sleep in tents, cars, and vans. We get a lot of people who do not realise they are rough sleeping…People are also much more removed from services by geography. There is a lack of knowledge about what services are where, what they do and how to access them. As a result, more people develop multiple and complex needs, fall victim to gate keeping, and their situations become more entrenched” – survey respondent.

In response to this a ‘Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition’ has been set up. This is a group of rural and homeless organisations, such as English Rural, The National Housing Federation, and the Centre for Homelessness Impact. The ‘Rural Homeless Counts Coalition’ has made a pledge which includes fostering partnerships, raising awareness, encouraging the adoption of evidence-based approaches, and developing and advocating solutions to tackle rural homelessness. The coalition encourages you to join: “Whether you’re an individual passionate about housing equality, a local authority, a rural housing association, or another stakeholder, your support can make a difference. By joining the coalition, you’ll be part of a powerful movement working to ensure that rural homelessness counts”. If you have like to find out more information about the coalition, please contact [email protected]


“Building more affordable homes is crucial for rural communities – to tackle rising homelessness, for people who want to stay in their local area, and to enhance the quality of housing available to residents. However, our planning system often presents significant barriers to this.”    National Housing Federation

On Wednesday, the focus was on the planning process for delivering rural housing.  Ulrike Maccariello, Development Director of the Hascoe Group, Nick Gallent, Professor of Housing and Planning, The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL), and Adam Morton, Senior Manager-Affordable Housing Strategy, Homes England, gave presentations on a webinar about planning, opportunities, and obstacles for delivering rural housing. These were very informative and well worth listening to.

If you are interested in how the planning process works, listen to Ulrike explain the process involved including opportunities and obstacles.

Garrent from UCL gave an update on current live research entitled “Delivering Affordable Housing on Rural Exception sites”  due to be completed and available to read this autumn. Keep an eye out for this publication. He would like local authorities to share their experiences and data on this matter. You can do this by contacting: [email protected]

In exploring what factors advance or impede the progress of rural housing in exception sites, his preliminary findings indicated that, among other important issues, community support and access to a Rural Housing Enabler, to act an honest broker working with all stakeholders, can be key to helping to drive affordable housing projects in local areas.

Adam Morton, from Homes England, referred to  Homes England strategic plan 2023 to 2028 – GOV.UK ( published in May. This relates to both rural and urban planning:

“Our mission- We drive regeneration and housing delivery to create high-quality homes and thriving places. This will support greater social justice, the levelling up of communities across England and the creation of places people are proud to call home”.

He also explained the Affordable Homes Programme 2021 to 2026 – GOV.UK ( This is “programme information, how to apply for funding or become a Homes England investment or strategic partner”.

He cited the promotion of a more holistic and collaborative approach with a focus on a local approach to people and places. Focusing on regeneration, locally defined and led projects, the partnership of both public and private, small and large housing providers, and the importance of design, quality, and sustainability.

If you are interested in learning more about this webinar, the links to two webinars are below.

These are National Housing Federation – Homelessness – the ‘hidden’ rural crisis and National Housing Federation – Planning – opportunities and obstacles for delivering rural housing.

If you would like to find out more about rural housing in Surrey, please get in touch – email me or call 07874 857638.

Lending a helping hand

Our Voluntary Car Schemes Adviser, Vicki joined Staines Helping Hands, a new good neighbour scheme, at #StainesDay to help raise their profile and recruit drivers. They ran a tombola with all prizes given by volunteers and friends.
Surrey Community Action has provided the founding members of Staines Helping Hands with information and advice to help get their scheme up and running.
If you would like to find out more about setting up a new good neighbour scheme in your area, or you would like to volunteer then get in touch! Contact our Voluntary Car Schemes Advisor, Vicki Turton via email [email protected] or call Vicki on 01483 447121.

Supporting Our Local Communities

As well as working for a charity, some of our team volunteer for other charities and not-for-profit organisations too. During Volunteers Week (1-7 June), we thought that we would share some of our volunteer roles.

Jason Gaskell, our CEO 

I’m a trustee with Surrey Wildlife Trust.  Having previously worked and volunteered for Northumberland Wildlife Trust, I was keen to stay involved in the WT movement when we moved to Surrey, and a Trusteeship allows me to combine personal interest with professional skills from working in the voluntary sector.

I’m also a rugby coach with Guildfordians Rugby Club.  I have coached mixed teams from under 6 to under 11, and then move up to coach an amazing team of U14 Girls.  Seeing them develop their skills and confidence over the season is fantastic, sharing their joy of the game, the pain of their losses and the euphoria of their (many!) wins.  Next season is a whole new challenge as lead coach of the U16 Girls team.  As well as seeing the players develop and grow, there is a fantastic network of coaches to work with, bounce ideas off and socialise with, from teams across Surrey and beyond.

Vicky Turton, our Good Neighbour Schemes Co-Ordinator

As well as helping community groups to set up and run good neighbour schemes, I’m a volunteer for my local scheme too.

I have been a volunteer with WEBCare –  a good neighbour scheme in Bisley since it launched in 1995.  I am on the committee, I answer the phones, and I am a driver with the scheme.

Dianne Roberts, our Community Champions Co-ordinator

I’m a trustee for HomeStart Spelthorne, where I serve as a safeguarding trustee, ensuring the Committee staff and volunteers are up to date with training and are aware of their responsibilities, plus I check our policies and practice re recruitment, supervision etc.

Justine Aldous, our Marketing Manager

I help to promote the activities and events organised by the PTA at my children’s secondary school and I’m also a volunteer moderator for my local community’s Facebook group. Having spent a lot of time promoting the flexibility of volunteering for good neighbour schemes, I have joined Guildford Care as a volunteer driver too.


Warmth Matters Pops Up at Westborough Community Fair

Our Warmth Matters Project popped up at the Westborough Community Fair on Saturday 20 May.

Hosted by Westborough Church and the University of Surrey, the event offered a day of fun, entertainment, support and advice for the local community in Westborough.

The Fair’s theme was financial resilience and Surrey Community Action joined other charity and not for profit organisations at the event, to give energy saving advice to visitors to the Fair.