Meet our finalists – Community Engagement Award

January 29, 2021

It’s never been more challenging to get people involved in their communities, but these three finalists are leading the way. Read more about them and how they feel about being shortlisted for the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards.

MCR Pathways

MCR Pathways is a Scottish, school-based mentoring programme supporting those in or on the edges of the care system to realise their full potential through education. MCR has built its inclusive mentoring community in partnership with each local authority and has almost 1,500 active mentors, recruited across multiple sectors.

What made you want to enter the awards?

We first heard about the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards a few years ago after following Care Management Matters for some time.

Every year, these awards highlight incredible but often relatively unknown organisations that are making a huge difference in their communities.

It’s a prestigious accolade in our sector and it’s an enormous honour to be included. Additionally, we think of awards as being for our community of volunteers – they deserve recognition for the impact they make.

In 2020, we could see more than ever the importance of the third sector and the impact it has. We are so proud of the resilience not only shown by our team but also by our partners and volunteers and, most of all, the young people we work with who have faced so many challenges – it just seemed right to try to champion that work now more than ever.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

We were absolutely overjoyed, and a little stunned, to find out we had been nominated for the Community Engagement Award! There are so many incredible charities and organisations out there doing amazing work and, this year in particular, we can only imagine how tough the competition was.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to highlight the efforts our entire MCR community – including our volunteers and partners in the third, higher and further education, private and public sectors – have made to support young people during a year where everyone has struggled. More than anything, we are delighted to have had our MCR community recognised in this way.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

It means so much to us to be a finalist for this prestigious award.

Community and relationships are in our DNA. MCR includes our volunteers and partners from across the country, giving their time and support to a young person to help them achieve a better chance in life. Many young people are missing that vital support and a community for them to feel valued in; this is what our mentors provide.

That impact lasts a lifetime and affects everyone. MCR Pathways is dedicated to building strong partnerships and we can’t function without them. Our model works with all members of our community – schools, councils, volunteers – to transform outcomes for care-experienced and disadvantaged young people. It is an absolute privilege to see that work be recognised.

We are delighted just to have got this far and really excited to be a part of the final stages. We can’t wait to share the power of mentoring with the wider Care Management Matters audience.

What’s been your greatest challenge in the last year?

Like all organisations in the 3rd sector, for us 2020 was a year of disruption. Our mentoring programme operates within schools, so our greatest challenge and priority has been to ensure a continuity of support for the young people we work with, even while everything else changed.

When schools shut, young people were cut off and needed increasing support at a time where delivering that became more and more difficult. For everyone, the hurdles were greater, but this is when the importance of our partnerships and relationships really shone.

We worked with each local authority and school to adapt rapidly and deliver services virtually. Our mentor community came together to do whatever they could, despite the circumstances and their individual challenges. Digital poverty was one of the biggest obstacles for so many young people over this period, with many lacking the essential devices and/or internet connections to continue their learning at home or keep in contact with their mentor and teachers. Partnership, again, was the solution, with the Scottish Government and private sector supporting us to provide more than 350 laptops to young people across the country. Together, we not only adapted but, I’m so proud to say, flourished. The simple acts of kindness – mentoring, providing digital resources, feeding back the challenges of our young people to those in power – made the difference. These made us stronger and we look with hope to a much brighter 2021.

Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service

 The Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service, working as part of the Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group, is a two-year pilot service commissioned by Barnsley Council. It aims to bring sectors together to raise dementia awareness and improve the information, advice and support available for people affected by dementia in Barnsley.

What made you want to enter the awards?

We wanted to show everyone how six local charities coming together could create an event that would have a lasting impact on community relationships.

The Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards took place on 30th January 2020. It aimed to raise dementia awareness and celebrate individuals and organisations offering the very best person-centred care and support to people living with dementia and their unpaid carers. It also aimed to bring statutory, private, voluntary and faith-based organisations together.

The event did all of this and more. People living with dementia and unpaid carers co-produced the event, and were involved in the planning, judging, delivery and reviewing processes. Local businesses sponsored both the event and individual awards. The local Uplift Church Choir kept spirits high during all of the intervals and all 53 people who were nominated across all sectors for 13 awards were recognised and thanked.

This whole event was captured in The Barnsley Chronicle in a special four-page edition, which went out to 19,000 homes that week.

For the first time, staff from care homes, local charities, local businesses, Barnsley Adult Social Care, Barnsley District General Hospital and local GP surgeries celebrated each other’s work and gained an increased appreciation of each other’s service. The contacts made on 30th January 2020 have been invaluable and continue to serve us well as we help people living with dementia and their carers to cope with the continued COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

We were overjoyed. This is national recognition for our six local charities, which meet every fortnight in order to raise awareness about dementia in Barnsley and to create new services for people living with dementia and their carers.

Putting an event like The Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards 2020 together was a big undertaking for six charities already providing much-needed services to these groups and older people generally in Barnsley. Without the support of Barnsley Council, funding the pilot Barnsley Gateway Dementia Service, this group would have struggled to have the capacity to make this event happen.

The Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group is delighted with the success of the Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards and equally delighted to be nominated for this Community Engagement Award. 

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

It says that what we have managed to achieve is exceptional and has been recognised nationally. It confirms to us that this Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards event was a resounding success in bringing together local businesses, local churches and charities, and private and statutory health and social care services.

It has given us increased confidence to do even more in our community with all of these sectors, for people living with dementia and their carers. To be recognised in the Community Engagement Award category is particularly important to us. It says what we do and what we intend to carry on doing.

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

Like most community-based health and social care services, our six local charities initially had to stop all face-to-face contact and only offer remote contact via telephone or digital support. We quickly realised that we needed to do more.

Family carers were taking on more caring responsibilities, including personal care, and were becoming jaded. People living with dementia could no longer go to the social groups that gave them the vital social stimulation that enables people to live well with dementia. Their dementia symptoms were deteriorating. Coupled with this is the fact that most of the people we support are aged over 60 years of age, most are at high risk of infection and many are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.

Our six local charities came together to jointly offer the following additional, adapted services:

  • In May 2020, we set up a Freephone Barnsley Dementia Helpline from 8pm to midnight, seven days a week. Five of our six charities are able to share in the rota for this service, which took us two weeks to put in place. This is still in place.
  • We offer practical help with shopping and prescription pick-ups.
  • We offer regular doorstep visits, where we drop off activity packs or swap books.
  • We have raised extra funding from private and charitable sources, to provide free respite for carers.
  • We provide regular food hampers or other treats to raise spirits and to provide another opportunity to keep connected with those who are most vulnerable.

Intergenerational Music Making

Intergenerational Music Making (IMM) is one of the UK’s pioneers of intergenerational music projects, bridging generational gaps and tackling isolation and social exclusion, whilst improving the mental health and wellbeing of both generations. IMM develops strong partnerships between health, education, care, council and art organisations, bringing generations together through creative shared musical activities.

What made you want to enter the awards?

At Intergenerational Music Making, we are interested in projects that challenge hierarchy and convention, shed light on the overlooked, and create spaces for new conversations and otherwise marginalised voices. We strive to adopt the highest holistic approaches, nurturing the individual, the wonderful intergenerational relationships, the carer, family and community through the power of music.

Our work is centred around connection and community, working with those living with dementia, those who are experiencing mental health issues, loneliness and isolation and those socially and economically deprived, both young and old. It is through awards such as the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards that we are able to share our story, raise the voices of both generations and encourage awareness and understanding around intergenerational music practice.

We believe everyone should have the chance to live life to the full. Everyone has the ability to respond to music, to explore and develop in the music.

Our work aims to bridge the gap between generations, creating stronger, more resilient communities whilst improving the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of both the young and the old.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

The news of us being a finalist provided the team with some much-needed light and joy! We are all so incredibly passionate about Intergenerational Music Making, so to receive the acknowledgement from the panel that our work is important is truly special!

We believe that music will be the essential ingredient in how we heal and rehabilitate, both individually and as a community. We are determined to help mitigate the impacts on the nation’s wellbeing, improve the lives for those living with dementia and mental health concerns, but also to harness the power of strong creative connections for the future.

Individuals and their stories, whether sung, spoken, written, drawn, enacted, young or older, must be heard, exchanged and recognised.

It’s through stories, whether factual or imaginary, that people tell us who they are, where they’ve come from and where they dream of going next.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

We are honoured to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards. To be acknowledged and recognised for the innovative and vital work we deliver is incredible.

For many years we have been working across the health, care, education and community sector delivering unique music projects, events and workshops, bespoke training, consultancy and research. At the heart of IMM is music, paired with incredible partnerships, fuelled by passionate people and their remarkable stories. Music is the vessel in which culture and heritage can be shared, understood and respected – whether you are five years old or 100 years old!

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Our work addresses the ageing population, which brings with it a growing population and evolving healthcare needs, specifically looking at the increase in dementia, loneliness and mental health difficulties amongst all generations. We use music as the vehicle to support individual memory and identification, whilst encouraging leadership, self-confidence and community. At IMM we are passionate about providing ways for generations to engage with one another – to communicate, be creative, share insights and test out new ideas.

We want to encourage creative intergenerational communities, support and nurture intergenerational relationships, and provide quality artistic access for those with dementia, families and carers.

We will only achieve this through an interdisciplinary team approach, one that gives people more say about the care and the support they receive. We want to pioneer an improved and new collaborative community where people, families, health care professionals and researchers are working together to improve an ageing population and the demand this brings with it through music!

What’s been your greatest challenge in the last year?

Due to COVID-19 we were unable to continue our intergenerational projects and feared that this time away from our clients could have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. We were determined to adapt and to find new ways to support and nurture those wonderful intergenerational relationships and introduce exciting and creative ways to stay connected and creative.

Our response to the pandemic drew on the digital and non-digital, virtual and tangible. We used home-based, creative ways to support health and tackle isolation, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing for all generations, whilst creating cohesive, artistic communities.

This time of distance and separation has made our work even more vital. Over the course of the pandemic, it has been extremely distressing to have witnessed a dramatic deterioration in the dementia symptoms and mental health of some of our clients, both young and old. We have also seen trends in increased mental health concerns and feelings of loneliness from those over 70 living in care homes, those shielding or isolated without family, and in young people between the ages of ten and 18, the number of referrals has doubled.

We seized this time of interruption to rebuild and tell a different story. Early on, we realised it was vital to engage and empower communities as equal partners in creating and maintaining their health and wellbeing. Social isolation and loneliness are nothing new to our organisation but, now more than ever, we believe the arts possess transformative power, bringing people together in ways we could not have foreseen.

In December, we launched a campaign, Together with Music, in partnership with Care England to embed and sustain intergenerational connections across the UK.

Together with Music aims to connect every care home, sheltered accommodation and hospital with their local school or youth group through music. We see vast opportunity to embed cross-sectorial relationships, as well as creating job, training and volunteer opportunities for young people. This programme will empower and amplify voices of community members, giving them the skills and tools to be self-sufficient and integrated in their community.


This year we will be revealing our winners at a Virtual Ceremony on Friday 12th February. We’d love for you to join us. Sign up to attend the event here.

You can also keep up to date with all the latest on this year’s finalists on social media #3rdSectorCareAwards @3rdSectorCare