New Beginings

Spring is nearing.  The first signs of new growth are sprouting.  Snowdrops and crocus are colouring banks and gardens and the stirrings of hope for brighter days begin.

Fresh Start is feeling those same stirrings, of hope, excitement, and determination, that things are beginning.  Being part of the Robert Owen Group has been a growth point for us and has taught us that new growth can offer hope for brighter days to come.

This winter has been a difficult one for many families.  It has been sad to hear of the stories around the cost-of-living crisis and to watch as our own health service begins to deteriorate under the winter pressures.    Reading the news headlines has been particularly hard, as I am in the centre of the issues which the NHS are presented with.

The NHS, a much respected and much sought after service, needs our help.

Herefordshire is a city with an ageing population.  We need care companies, hospital beds and rehabilitation services.  It is difficult to see how the city can provide all of this with the financial constraints, the staffing crisis, and the lack of support from government, who state, ‘there is no money available`.  Hereford Hospital also serves a wide area, Powys, Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire, as well as Hereford itself.   New ways, innovation and creation must take place.

Both Fresh Start and the Robert Owen Group have been concerned at the headlines around the care of the elderly and how it is falling below what we expect or not being given at all.  We have all seen the horrendous and at times harrowing headlines around this.  We have heard the political parties throwing accusations at each other and have seen the results on the news of the events which can lead to a high mortality rate due to a lack of beds in our hospitals.  We have heard the words ‘bed blocking`, ‘not enough resources`, ‘staffing crisis`.

At the Robert Owen lecture last year, I spoke about our communities, how I had identified Pillars around which we would need to work for each one of them.  Health and well-being had a heading all its own.  Within this heading I had identified that there was a need for elderly care and a more targeted approach to delivering amenities for these men and women, to lead more fulfilling lives, with choices and support for the things that they required.

Over the last few months as part of the Robert Owen Group, it has been discussed how we are going to deliver for these people.  Regeneration of services was identified.  We discussed how we are going to ensure that those people could access the care they needed and at the time that it was required.   This is where the new beginnings start.

Identifying the need for care services, we set about how we would create our own.

This has been a process of research and we have identified the causes and constraints on care and the need for improving the way care is offered.  We have also identified how care could be delivered and how it could be used to provide more services for our elderly.  We have used the co-operative model and have created RODS.

RODS is the Robert Owen Domiciliary Service and has now been registered as a not for profit, co-operative company limited by guarantee.   It will offer care services to our elderly in the Marches and surrounding areas.  For the first two years this is what we will concentrate on.  We will build up the company and will employ care practitioners to deliver the care, concentrating on it being person centred.  Not only will the care be person centred but being a co-operative means that those who use or work in the service, get the chance through membership to develop the company to ensure the future of our elderly is secure and that there are no constraints on age or illness.  We aim to offer what our elderly community require.  In doing this, it also opens out more opportunities for other parts of our communities.  Training, jobs, and regeneration will all be part of this new vision of care.

So, for now, the introduction of RODS has been made.  These new beginnings are the start of the spring that will bring about new hope, innovation and new futures for our elderly and communities.  This is, just the beginning.

 Written by Amelia Washbourne

Fresh Start

Director of the Robert Owen Society


The area to the South of the Wye is a community of 22,000 people.  Formerly a scattered farming community, the area has grown rapidly since World War II, largely through council and social housing development. However, little thought had gone into the strategic planning.  Public service provision has not at any stage matched need.  The South Wye area has high levels of deprivation with the resultant impact on health, crime, achievement and ambition. There is very much a feeling that the South Wye area fills the traditional concept of a community ‘the other side of the tracks’.

Change and improvement with fundamental community regeneration is required.  A group of people interested in South Wye have come together with a real vision to restore the community through a macro public/private initiative which would be strategically managed through a community wide South Wye co-operative business organisation.  This vision is known as Fresh Start South Wye.

The newly designed Fresh Start South Wye logo


Led by Amelia Washbourne, a resident of the South Wye area of Hereford City for over 35 years. As a mother and a grandmother with roots deep into the local community Amelia currently works in the NHS and has a background in local government, health and social care and early years education. Her long standing personal and community interest in improving the level of service delivery and quality of life for our South Wye people is what led to the creation of this project.

Having followed the Robert Owen 2021 Annual Lecture with interest earlier this year, Amelia had been working on a plan for South Wye for some time and the vision shared by this year’s Lecture contributors inspired her to contact Chris Morgan, President and Secretary of the Robert Owen Society, to see if her ideas could be worked up into a constructive proposal. The rest is history, as they say and Amelia and Chris been working together to bring together

an exciting and highly innovative plan which, although still in draft form, is ready to be shared with some of the key movers and shakers in the community.

 Watch this space!


We Can Solve Poverty in the UK!

In the face of the current challenges that we face as communities, as regions and as nations we need to develop effective local strategies to help our people in this COST OF LIVING CRISIS.

In the UK The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as always, leads the way. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is a Quaker trust which supports people who address the root causes of conflict and injustice. This support is provided, primarily, through funding applied for by applicants.

The Foundation’s founder, Joseph Rowntree was always very clear on one thing: for your efforts to have any lasting benefit, you must tackle the roots of a problem. If you only treat the “superficial manifestations” of social or economic problems then you will ease the symptoms for a time, but make no lasting difference.

In its recent ground breaking report – We can solve poverty in the UK the JRF sets out a comprehensive strategy and recommendation on how all of us can act to solve poverty

The opening three paragraphs of the report are clear:

“The UK should be a country where, no matter where people live, everyone has the chance of a decent and secure life. Instead, millions of people – many from working families – are struggling to meet their needs.

Poverty means not being able to heat your home, pay your rent, or buy the essentials for your children. It means waking up every day facing insecurity, uncertainty, and impossible decisions about money. It means facing marginalisation – and even discrimination – because of your financial circumstances. The constant stress it causes can overwhelm people, affecting them emotionally and depriving them of the chance to play a full part in society.

The reality is, almost anyone can experience poverty. Unexpected events such as bereavement, illness, redundancy or relationship breakdown are sometimes all it can take to push us into circumstances that then become difficult to escape.”

Read the whole report at:



At this time of political and economic turmoil, our communities are facing challenges which will affect so many of us.

In 1884 the Rochdale Pioneers used their earnings to found the their community co-operative.  This was to provide what was required by the people.

 A democratic process had begun and life improved over time for many.  At the heart of this was communities.  They worked hard for one another, with each other and the times, not unlike today, we’re challenging.  To tackle today’s problems, we will require that same level of commitment from communities.

 Fresh Start, in partnership with the Robert Owen Society, are realistic about what can be achieved and that the roots of our solutions are in identifying what the communities require.

We are creating models for problems and identifying strategies.  We are moving quickly now behind the scenes.

This has been hard work but Fresh Start is confident that by bringing communities together, we can create with the people, a way forward.