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Services for the older people of the UK

 After its creation in 1938, the Women’s Voluntary Service’s main focus was the war effort, recruiting women to assist civilians during and after air raids. After the war, however, the aim of the organisation shifted, and more attention was focussed on the older generation. Since then, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has worked closely with older people, hoping to improve their lives in every way possible. Today we will look at the achievements of the Royal Voluntary Service and how its efforts have changed over time.



Origins
After realising the ever increasing population in the older generation, the WVS set out to assist them in a number of ways, many of which are exist in some form today. These included Darby and Joan clubs, residential clubs and the Meals on Wheels. Special clubs were set up for old people in a few places during the war, but after seeing its success, the number increased rapidly after 1945. By 1962, there were over 2,000 Darby and Joan clubs, with membership exceeding 150,000. In this friendly atmosphere, the old people enjoyed spending time with each other, dancing and going on regular holidays throughout the year. Mary Curtis, a former club leader who spent 45 years with the WVS, talked about her time spent on holidays with members in 2015 in an interview with Jennifer Hunt. She said that she went in a variety of places across the UK, starting from 1970 – with the last holiday taking place in 2008. These included Morecambe, Llandudno, Newquay, Ayr and Bournemouth. But these places did not come without excitement. “On one occasion our coach skidded off the road and went into a ditch” she quotes, when speaking of a foggy morning in the Isle of Wight. “Nobody panicked” she says and “it was a lovely holiday”.
Residential Clubs were also established, where members would assist permanent staff in homes for the pensioners. By 1963, 23 homes were established by the WVS. As purpose-built flats and bungalows were being provided by the government, the WVS also helped with re-housing the retirees. Some would lay carpets, whilst others would hang curtains, making life easier for people who were moving house.






The changing role of RVS
In 1960, it was estimated that around 12.5% of the country’s population was of a pensionable age. This has since increased to 18%, an increase of over 5 million people. As a result, through the 1970s WRVS established many other services; transport schemes (Country Cars 1974/1975) have also been put in place whereby volunteers undertook thousands of journeys each year and still do, taking people to and from hospital, trips into town or shopping trips, adding to the pleasure of day to day lives and allowing people to be closer to their local community. Other opportunities include the Good Neighbours Scheme (1974), which started as a visiting scheme but has now developed to offer help, whether it’s walking the dog, changing a lightbulb or collecting a pension. Helping an older person in small ways can make life much easier for them. Home library services started in the 1960s but took off in the 1970s. Today, volunteers still bring a range of books, as well as DVDs and CDs to older people who wouldn’t normally be able to get out of the house. In 1992 WRVS became a charity and as a result became more focused on the welfare of older people. The Charity works today to meet the very different needs of older people, including more community focused schemes such as Cafes, Lunch clubs and social events, encouraging people to get out and about and meet new people. In every way we are working to support changing lifestyles and tackle loneliness later in life.



Conclusion

Over the years WVS and WRVS has worked to improve the lives of older people with a range of services including the home library service and befriending. The RVS has adapted to provide for the ever increasing population in the older generation. By introducing and continuing schemes such as the Good Neighbour scheme and Lunch Clubs, the RVS has encouraged people to socialise with one and other, an essential part in anyone’s life that boosts morale and mental wellbeing. The RVS has continued to support the elderly and the Archive holds lots of records about the welfare of older people from 1938 to the present day. This demonstrates our success in providing needs for older people, from 80 years ago and for many more years in the future.


Credit First photograph, R44353/80 - "Old People Dancing" taken by CH Wood, published by the kind permission of Museums and Galleries, Bradford MDC

Posted by Rory Fielding, volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 30 July 2018.

Labels: RVS, Meals on Wheels, Clubs, WRVS, WVS, older people

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” so goes the eponymous quote popularised by Mark Twain.

Every once in a while we all have to admit we have been wrong and so that is what todays blog is in part about. It is the wonderful thing about archives, especially large ones like ours, that we are always finding new things and new evidence, refining and re-writing history and making ‘new’ discoveries.

Here in the archive we have the most fabulous set of statistics for the period 1938-1945. The WVS were compelled by the Government to keep them for the purposes of assisting with Civil Defence. Early on this data tracks WVS volunteer recruitment and numbers monthly, and from 1943 quarterly, but in much more detail. But when the war ended, so did the statistics; the need was no longer there.



We know for certain that in November 1941 the WVS reached its zenith in terms of the number of women who it could call upon, with 1,043,423 members; the largest volunteer organisation in British history. But what happened at the end of the war and afterwards has always been rather sketchy.



We knew that there were very significant resignations at the end of the war, with speeches given by women at the closing of WVS centres about having done their bit and wanting to look after their homes, families and returning husbands, but no figures survived. In fact it would appear no figures were gathered from the end of 1945 until 1949, a period of rapid and dramatic transformation of the WVS from one centred around Civil Defence to one at the forefront of post-war social welfare development.

In 1949 however, with the re-establishment of the Civil Defence Corps after the Russian’s successful Nuclear test in August, the WVS formed the Welfare Section of the CD corps and the statistics started again. Unfortunately we only had a few glimpses of these through a few returns which had been kept by some local offices, which had found their way to the archive. The Headquarters summary books were missing. By comparing these few centre examples against the data from 1945 we made best guesses about the change in national volunteering numbers over the late 1940s.

We also applied that to the period up to 1982 (which were the first post war national statistics we had) and took into account significant events and the start and finish of major branches of work.

Our best guess was that after the war the WVS lost about half its membership to about 500,000, with an increase in 1949 with the formation of the CD corps and then a steady decline with some larger drops at the closure of the corps in 1968 and the death of Lady Reading in 1971.

We have recently been undertaking a whole collections review. I spent five weeks looking in every box in our collection, and managed to find many things I had ‘lost’ and some things which I had never seen before. One of these was the missing 1949-1970 membership statistical returns.

How wrong I turned out to be! After ten years of telling one story, I now have to tell another, but at least it is now more accurate. It just goes to show you what unintentional lies can be wrought from making assumptions based on limited data.

The graph below shows just how dramatic that end of war exodus of members was with the membership between 1945 and 1949 dropping by 88% from 968,242 to 118,960. The majority of that probably occurring in the immediate period after VJ day.



Membership, rose slightly with the onset of the Cold War in 1949, until fatigue set in in the md 1950s, with a flat membership until Lady Reading’s death in 1971 and then a very slow decline until the early 1990s.

The more pronounced decline in the early 1990s through to 2010, should perhaps be seen in the context of the professionalisation of the charity sector and wider social change. This included dramatic changes in the role of women in society and ideas and enthusiasm about volunteering. That said the 1990s and early 2000s were a particular turbulent time for Royal Voluntary Service as its role fundamentally changed from doing just about everything to focusing only on older people and its Government grant was withdrawn incrementally from 1997 - 2008 when it stopped completely.

I think Mark Twain had it just about right, but I’m glad I can put the record straight; at least for the time being.

Posted by Matthew McMurray - Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 11 July 2016.

Labels: Lies, Statistics, Membership, Volunteers, WVS, WRVS, RVS

Reports from Everywhere - November 1955

This month’s reports from everywhere are all on the topic of Darby and Joan clubs.

ERITH
Copy of a letter from a Darby and Joan Club member: “Dear W.V.S., Thank you very much for my birthday card received September 3rd from the No. 1 Darby and Joan Club. It is very nice to think you are not forgotten. I have not been able to come to the Club for over twelve months. I have been very ill, but I am very pleased to say I am much better, but am not allowed by the Doctor to go into any crowded places, so I don’t go anywhere on my own these days. I miss my Friday meetings very much. All you folks made me feel so much at home with you all. You made me feel you really wanted us all there, not just putting up with us. Good luck to the Club and God bless all the W.V.S. that work there, also all the others that make it a success.”

FARNHAM
The Gostrey Club was recently opened. This is a scheme upon which we have been working for over a year. The Club provides a hot lunch, chiropody and library services and tea to people over 60 years of age. The Council have been most helpful in agreeing to let the old Civic Restaurant to us at a low price, and gifts have been received from a number of sources. W.V.S. members worked hard cleaning, putting up curtains and making all the preparations. The opening was attended by 18 old people and many visitors, since which the membership has increased to 45. It was pleasant to hear an old lady saying to a friend, “Yes, I’ve just been to my Club. Oh, it’s like heaven. The chairs are so comfortable and we sit with our feet on a carpet!”

GLOUCESTER
The following letter of thanks has been received from one of the old people to whom we deliver meals-on-wheels : “I am writing a few words of thanks to you and all the kind and willing helpers for their grateful service for we old people and the pleasant faces and the bit of pudding and dinner. Hoping you will not be offended at my writing but you deserve a word of praise for your kindness.”

MAIDSTONE R.D
The one hundredth Darby and Joan Club in Kent was opened on October 5th at Boughton Monchelsea. To commemorate the occasion a silver cup is being given to the Club by the Regional Old People’s Welfare Specialist.

WORTHING
An amusing story comes from Goring Darby and Joan Club. One of our members plays chess regularly with one of the old men. They continued their game during tea, and the Darby became so excited that his opponent suddenly saw he was trying to eat a chessman instead of his cake!

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 09 November 2015.

Labels: Erith, Gloucester, Maidstone, Worthing, Darby and Joan, Goestry, WVS, WRVS, RVS, Chess, Farnham

Spinach and Beet - Part 16

Today’s Diary of a Centre Organiser is from April 1950

Tuesday

A survey of the town has revealed a “corner” of it which is out of reach of any existing Darby and Joan Club. Mrs Ream has energetically pushed a leaflet into the letter-boxes of all houses there known to be inhabited by one or more people over sixty, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the possible formation of a Club. “I’ve been so busy doing this and that, I even forgot to get my husband’s dinner to-day,” she confessed, and added: “He says the leaflets have gone to my head and that I’ve got a one tract mind!”

Wednesday

It is often difficult to curb Mrs Catte’s bitter tongue, but perhaps a newcomer, Mrs Stranger will prove equal to the task. During this afternoon’s Work Party Mrs Stranger - at our invitation - was telling us a little about herself and the work she had been doing for W.V.S. in the Centre she came from. In addition she told us about her son who had won scholarship after scholarship and had just received promotion after only a few months in his first job. “Isn’t it wonderful how lucky your boy is?” Mrs Catte purred silkily, but there was a glint in her eyes. “Yes,” Mrs. Stranger retorted instantly, “isn’t it wonderful? The harder he works the luckier he gets.”

Friday

Sudden outbreak of a particularly nasty type of feverish cold amongst the helpers, coinciding with an unexpected number of requests for “Meals on Wheels” for ex-hospital patients. Everbody - myself included - rushing around madly, trying to cope with the deliveries by car, bicycle and even perambulator. Returned to the office to find amongst the letters one written in the third person : “Mrs Appleton would not mind a ‘Meal’ on a ‘Wheel,’ provided it arrives really hot and that the food is freshly cooked and not merely re-heated. She never touches liver and does not care for steamed puddings.” “Would not MIND ...!!’

Recipe

from May 1950

Meringue Cake

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 egg yolks, unbeaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons milk
4 tablesp. butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For meringue top
2 whites of eggs
1/2 cup sugar.

Sift flour once, then measure, add baking powder and salt, sift together three times. Cream butter thoroughly, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add flavouring. Put into greased baking tin. Beat egg whites until foamy throughout, add sugar, 2 tablesp. at a time, beating after each addition until sugar is thoroughly blended. Continue beating until mixture stands in peaks. Spread over the cake batter. Bake in a moderate oven for about 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes to cool, then remove carefully from cake tin.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 26 October 2015.

Labels: Meals on Wheels, Darby and Joan Club, Meringue Cake, Recipe, Work Party , leaflets, RVS, WRVS, WVS, Spinach and beet

Long to reign over us

Today Her Majesty The Queen becomes our longest serving monarch, and Royal Voluntary Service, one of the many charities of which she is Patron, wishes her every happiness.

We have a long association with the Royal family, in fact back to before our foundation. Our first Patron in 1938 was Queen Mary, who was so instrumental in galvanising and leading Home front efforts in the First World War and who had a profound influence of on our founder Lady Reading encouraging and supporting her in the formation of the WVS ahead of that second terrible 20th century conflict. She would be followed later that year when Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) who consented to be our president, a position she actively held until her death in 2002.

It was not until 1953 on the death of Queen Mary and her ascent to the throne that Queen Elizabeth II became our Patron. But this was not the first or the last time that the WVS would be associated with our current reigning monarch. As Princess Elizabeth, our members were always ready to help, and in early 1948 were responsible for sorting, packing and sending out over 1,0000 parcels a day of gifts of food sent to Princess Elizabeth from the Dominions and Colonies at the time of her wedding. WVS was also entrusted with the task of dusting the Royal Wedding Presents while they were on view at St. James's Palace.

The Royal Wedding was a huge occasion in the long hard years of recovery after the war and one celebrated to the fore by members of the WVS. In all they collected £901 18s 10d, the majority of which was used to buy the Princess a refrigerator.

In 1966, on August 4 to be precise, Her Majesty conferred on the WVS the honour of adding Royal to their name, a thank you for the sacrifice of members during the Second World War and in the long recovery afterwards. It is a title we still treasure to this day.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Wednesday, 09 September 2015.

Labels: Wedding presents, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Colonies, Dominions, Food gifts, Heritage Bulletin Blog, RVS, WRVS, WVS

Spinach and beet - Part 14

This week's Diary of a Centre Organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, November 1951

Thursday

Matron is always glad when a young son or daughter, nephew or niece, accompanies one or more of our Trolley Shop team on their weekly rounds at the Old People’s Hospital. The patients enjoy seeing the children and one of them, 86 year old Mr Croke, gives great joy as a rule by moving sideways on his water-bed so that a glup-glup noise is made as he rocks the contents. Today, however, no smile broke the solemnity of a young visitor’s face when Mr Croke did his trick. Instead, overwhelmed with curiosity, the small boy took a step forward and asked anxiously : “If I put my finger in your mouth, would I feel the water?”

Friday

Have not yet found a niche in W.V.S. for Miss Pheckless. Had wondered whether she could deliver some of our Meals on Wheels, but my eye happened to light on an entry for August (when I was away) in our office Day Book which read : “Police called to ask us to remove some containers which had been standing outside No 5 London Street (an empty, boarded-up house) for some days and which were causing annoyance to the neighbours. Sent Miss Brown to collect them.” A later entry stated : “Miss Brown reported the containers were without lids, were buzzing with flies and smelling violently. Have traced that the meals were left by Miss Pheckless instead of at No 5 London Road.” Felt ashamed of myself for not reading the August entries before: what is the use of keeping a Day Book if nobody reads it? Was glad to discover due apologies had been sent to No 5 London Road.

Recipe

Tunny Fish en Casserole

1 medium size tin tunny fish
1 medium size onion (chopped)
3 packets potato crisps
Pepper and salt
1 tin mushroom soup

Line a casserole dish with one packet of potato crisps. Break the tunny fish into small pieces. Place part of it in the casserole, then a small quantity of the chopped onion; repeat until supply of tunny fish and onion are exhausted. Pour into the casserole the tin of soup (which has previously been heated) and put into a moderate oven for about half an hour. Cover the top with a layer of potato crisps, return to the oven for another ten minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00 Tuesday, 11 August 2015.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, RVS, heritage Bulletin Blog, Hospital , Old people, Meals on Wheels , recipe, Tunny Fish casserole, Trolley Shop

Some recent enquiries...

Here at the archive much of our time is spent answering enquiries from members of the public and Royal Voluntary Service staff and volunteers, in fact we receive about 200 a year. But like London buses they all seem to come along at once.

This month we have had a small deluge of family and local history enquiries, requests from students and media companies to authors and people looking to donate material to the archive.

One of my favourite requests was from a gentleman who has donated 200 Civil Defence Welfare Section recipe cards to the archive (which as I write this have yet to arrive). Each card with a different recipe for feeding 5,000 people at a time, imagine that, the quantities are mind boggling!

We also had request for information on one of our Regional Administrators during the war, Mrs Vera Dart who looked after Region 10 (Cumberland, Lancashire and Cheshire for the uninitiated!) for an author who is publishing a book about her.

A lady rang up asking us to identify what had come in a small white cardboard box, which had “presented by Lady Reading 1940” written on the back. The answer? It was her WVS membership badge. A lucky lady to be presented with it by the Chairman!

We have also lent out this month our entire stock of wartime loan uniforms for events being held by Royal Voluntary Services around the country, they have been at the Dig for Victory Show in Bristol, as wells as other promotional events around the country from Sheffield to Hampshire, the uniforms always attracting much attention.

Finally in this small selection, we have helped an academic who is looking at how our narrative reports might be able to help track changes in society and policy over time. This may turn out to be an exciting project for the future!

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 27 July 2015.

Labels: Region 10 , WVS, WRVS, RVS, Archive , Enquiries, Recipes, Vera Dart, Lady Reading , Narrative Reports

Summer enquiry service closure

Unfortunately, due to staff and volunteer holidays we will be unable to offer our Archive enquiry service during the month of July. 

This summer closure will start on Friday 3 July and last until Monday 3 August when the archive enquiry service will re-open.  This will also affect our paid for research service and our image licencing service.  Any enquiries received during this period will be answered within 20 working days of the re-opening of the service on Monday 3 August.

Lots of information on the WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service is available through the our history pages our website.

We're sorry for any inconvenience caused.


Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Thursday, 02 July 2015.

Labels: WRVS, RVS, Enquiry Service

Reports From Everywhere - June 1955

BATH. One of our old ladies who had been visited for a long time by W.V.S. dropped a hint that she had a birthday the following week. This was duly noted by the member and the landlady. Small gifts of candies, biscuits etc. were produced for the great day and they all had tea together. During the little celebration the old lady coyly announced that it was not her birthday at all but she would like to make sure of it now! Tailpiece—she died before her birthday ; she was over 80.

BURTON-ON-TRENT. The Hat Stall. The Matron at the Andressey Hospital approached the leader of the trolley shop to see if it was possible to supply those mental patients who were able to go out with new hats, as the ones they had were getting very shabby. As nothing appears impossible to W.V.S. our leader went to the manager of one of our large stores to see what he could do. He most kindly agreed to help and sent up a large quantity of hats to the hospital and the trolley helpers held an extra session one evening in the women’s sitting room. It was a most exciting and interesting evening. The patients were frightfully thrilled and tried on the hats with great enthusiasm, matching them with their coats, laughing heartily when the hat didn’t suit. They had been saving up for this occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The helpers and nurses were completely exhausted at the end as there were between fifty and sixty patients. We are wondering what we shall be asked for next.

ESTON (SOUTHBANK). On arriving at the post office one morning the Centre Organiser found a note asking her to telephone a crippled women who wanted W.V.S. help. It was found a self-propelling chair was needed. The Centre Organiser made several enquiries, and then told the woman what to do (all in the same morning). In less than three weeks the woman had been interviewed and examined and found eligible and now, having received the chair, she is so grateful she wants to do shopping for old people not able to do their own.

MORPETH. We have called on 38 old people to see if they need help, and came across many sad cases and some with humorous endings. For example, two poor old sisters over 80 living in most squalid conditions, no bedding, having sold belongings to keep going ; very proud and refusing any help. The National Assistance Board officer was asked to call and the Medical Officer of Health notified. The N.A.B. officer, after a lot of questioning awoke vague memories of money in their minds, and after a lengthy search he and they discovered £400 in notes in an old handbag!

SALISBURY. A little girl, very badly burned was transferred from the Isle of Wight to the plastic ward of Odstock Hospital. W.V.S. Isle of Wight told Southern Region and they passed the message on to South Western Region who asked Salisbury to send a visitor. Within two hours of receiving the request a member was on her way. The child was very ill and of course homesick. Our member quickly established herself as a trusted and beloved “ aunt,” and has been visiting the little girl three or four times a week for more than two months.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 22 June 2015.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, RVS, Bath, Burton on Trent, Eston, Morpeth, Salisbury, Hospital, old people, hats, Reports from everywhere

The longest serving member of the Army Hitler forgot

You may have seen one of the newspaper, magazine or television pieces about our oldest volunteer Margaret Miller who is 104 years young, in our celebration of VE Day at the beginning of June.

Last week we finally managed to interview Margaret about her amazing 76 years volunteering for the Royal Voluntary Service, as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded Voices of Volunteering project.

You can listen to Margaret by following the link to Margaret's page our online catalogue

Margaret was first involved with the WVS in Glasgow during the Second World War with collecting items for the Household Gifts Scheme and distributing them to people who had been bombed out. She was also involved with visiting and talking to soldiers in hospital and talking to them or bringing them gifts.

After the War Margaret was involved in Meals on Wheels and the Hospital Escort Service and in 1973 she was asked to set-up and run a stroke club called the Lightburn Harmony Stroke Club, which is still running today. In the interview Margaret also talks about the different members she has had over the years and her fundraising for the club. She also comments on her Long Service medal and two British Empire Medals, attending the 50th WRVS anniversary, a Garden Party at Holyrood in 2014 and her views on how Royal Voluntary Service has changed over the years.

Hearing volunteer‘s stories in their own words is what the Voices of Volunteering project is all about. For more information about the project you can visit the Voices of Volunteering project page

You might also be interested in the media coverage about Margaret and VE Day, you can find some of the articles below:

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00 Monday, 15 June 2015.

Labels: Margaret Miller, Stroke Club, Household Gifts Scheme, WVS , WRVS, RVS, Glasgow, Meals on Wheels , Hospital escort Service, British Empire Medal