Welcome to the Westminster Community Network (WCN,), an independent network of local charities and community organisations working in Westminster. The WCN exists to be the voice of the voluntary sector in Westminster and works to build relationships, share ideas and influence strategic decision-making in the borough. Anyone who works in the voluntary sector and serves Westminster residents is welcome to attend meetings and participate.
One Westminster supports the WCN by setting up meetings and events, providing information and updates and through the Chair ensuring that the voice of the sector is heard loud and clear by our statutory and business partners.
The theme of our last meeting of the Westminster Community Network was accessibility – how easy is it for the people we work with to access services – whether that’s services provided by the council or other public organisations or our own voluntary and community organisations. What are the barriers that stop people taking part in activities or accessing opportunities?
Introducing digital services has been an approach taken by many organisations but this can present its own barriers for people who don’t have access to the internet, or a computer, or the skills to use one.
We were joined by Becky Chapman from Westminster City Council who led a discussion about people’s experiences of engaging with the council’s services online – see a summary of the points raised below.
Of course, this is a huge topic. As well as digital accessibility, people at the meeting raised concerns about using public transport, or accessing health and other services and the need to advocate for those we work with who have difficulties accessing mainstream services.
The main theme was community safety and speakers from the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council led discussions about how local communities experience policing in Westminster. The topic generated a great deal of interest and comment and many points and issues were raised. These included concern about how to report crime, particularly if police stations are not open, difficulty with using the online reporting system and people’s lack of awareness of their rights. Concern was also expressed about the risk of violence and being drawn into crime, particularly for young people, and for all ages, but especially older people, the risk of being the victim of cybercrime – scams, fraud, and so on.
It was felt that our organisations in the voluntary sector have an important role to play in building links and sharing information between the community and police. Adam Taylor from Westminster City Council announced that there will be funding available through the Mayor’s Office for groups to run community safety projects and further information on how to apply will be available shortly. In the meantime, the information presented at the meeting is available in the box below.
Our Westminster Community Network meeting in February focused on poverty and specifically, the poverty experienced by many of the people we work with across Westminster. We heard from Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau and Cardinal Hume Centre about some of the problems that Universal Credit can cause and speakers from Westminster Foodbank and North Paddington Foodbank talked about the increased demand for their services.
We realised when planning the meeting that this is not a light-hearted topic but, as well as raising awareness of the reality of poverty, we wanted to share information about the services and support provided by organisations in the WCN and the round table discussions that followed focused on where people in need can receive advice and support. A list has been prepared by One Westminster that can be accessed below.
Westminster Community Network will: