In the Loop: Winter 2021

In the Loop - Hunts Forum Member News


Winter 2021

Welcome to the Winter 2021 edition of our In the Loop members’ newsletter, where we focus on the work of new members who are joining us all at Hunts Forum. Please take a while to learn about these organisations as they introduce themselves. Each one is a possible partner, collaborator and inspiration.

The latest news from our members now appears in our monthly NewsForum e-newsletters, sent by email. We are always happy to include members’ news and links to stories and information in this publication. Please send your contributions to

In this issue we hear from:

Cogwheel Counselling

Cogwheel Counselling is the only service in Cambridgeshire providing affordable counselling to couples, families and to individuals of all ages: children, teenagers, young adults, adults and the elderly.

The availability of counselling through the NHS is limited and can involve long waiting times. Those who can afford private counselling can readily access counselling, but those living on low incomes or are financially disadvantaged have little hope of getting the counselling support they need.

Cogwheel Counselling was founded in 1988 to provide counselling that was accessible and available regardless of anyone’s financial situation. Over the years there has been an increasing awareness of the important role that mental health plays in wellbeing and the benefit of talking therapies to aid people on the road to recovery from their mental health problems.

Thirty three years later, Cogwheel still provides affordable counselling and this has always remained at the heart of everything that Cogwheel does. Nearly 5,000 counselling sessions are provided annually, benefiting nearly 400 people of all ages. Cogwheel provides a maximum of 20 sessions for all clients. They are asked to make a payment contribution for a session based on their income.

Thousands have personally benefitted from this service. Cogwheel’s own data shows the dramatic difference that its counselling makes to people’s wellbeing and distress by the end of their counselling.

Cogwheel operates from premises in Norfolk Street, Cambridge and has satellite locations in Ely and Sawston. The Head of Counselling Esther McNeill is responsible for a team of 40 counsellors consisting of both employed and self-employed professional, volunteer and trainee counsellors. Cogwheel is one of only a few counselling providers in the county that is accredited with BACP (The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy).

At the start of the first Covid Lockdown in March 2020 many mental health charities including Cogwheel had to stop providing in-person counselling and transform their operation overnight to provide online counselling so as to continue to support people of all ages. Over the last 10 months, Cogwheel has seen clients referring themselves with higher levels of anxiety than seen previously seen.

The charity has an ambitious vision to continue to provide counselling for all, regardless of their financial situation. Income from client session contributions provides about 60% of the funding to meet the charity’s operating expenses so fundraising is vital to Cogwheel’s viability. Cogwheel is grateful for its continuing support from its regular and new grant funders and its other long-term supporters.

Cogwheel is outward looking in its approach and welcomes opportunities of conversation with other mental health charities. If this may be of interest please contact Neil Davies, Business Support & Fundraising Manager on 07502 372852 or email

Diamond Hampers CIC

Diamond Hampers provides emergency food aid to vulnerable families and individuals across the wider community. In 2020 it provided over 108,000 meals to people living in poverty. It operates seven days a week and provides support to hundreds of people every week.

A team of 50 dedicated volunteers assist with delivering essential food items to people across the district. Alongside this, they provide essential household items to support young people leaving care and support hostels and rough sleepers in and around Peterborough.

The team support families each half term by providing activity and snack bags for children, and during October 2020 provided over 1,000 school lunches. Over Christmas, more than 600 gifts and 600 meals were provided to those in need.

Diamond Hampers launched in January 2020 and over the course of the year have built relationships with the District, County and City councils to work together in the fight against food poverty.

In February 2020, the founder, Lianne Simpson, now the newly elected chair for emergency food provision across Huntingdonshire, was joined as a director by Charlotte Heritage. Together they ensure the organisation runs as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Diamond Hampers rescues a large amount of good quality food waste from supermarkets each week, saving it from landfill and instead ensuring it can be used by people in need to feed themselves nutritious meals. In 2020, over 90 tonnes of food was saved from rotting in landfill sites.

Working in partnership with Social Echo and Food For Nought, Diamond Hampers develops ideas and the tools to help the most vulnerable in society.

If you or someone you know may be in need of support, please contact Diamond Hampers in complete confidence. You can reach Lianne Simpson on 07769 312711 or

Godmanchester FoodBank

Godmanchester FoodBank (GFB) is a practical, community-based project providing food parcels for people in our area who are in food crisis.

Their operating area is the administrative county of Huntingdonshire. GFB provides short-term emergency help to people who find themselves for whatever reason (for example job-loss, benefit problems, ill-health etc) unable to feed themselves or their families.

The FoodBank is entirely dependent on voluntary help and donations of food and money. It operates under the auspices of Godmanchester Baptist Church and is supported by other local churches. GFB is part of the Trussell Trust FoodBank Network, an anti-poverty charity founded on Christian principles, but works with people of all faiths and none.

The foodbank does not ask intrusive questions nor seek personal information beyond a necessary minimum: name, age, address, number of people etc. They aim to provide ‘a hand up rather than a hand out’.

GFB uses a referral agency system to connect people to food help. Their network of around 100 registered agencies (statutory and voluntary groups, schools and other professionals) work with local people. Agencies can refer people to the FoodBank and so remove one difficulty in the pathway to improved circumstances for those people. The FoodBank offers help and support to people by ‘signposting’ them to agencies that can help.

From quiet beginnings about 10 years ago at Godmanchester Baptist Church, GFB has grown and in ‘normal times’ around 30 volunteers play a part in running things: collecting food from donation points, sorting and checking food, packing parcels, working face to face with people who come to the Foodbank. Behind the scenes the Management Team keep things running smoothly.

Foodbank al fresco 2020

However we currently live in different times! The Foodbank has reduced its volunteer staffing level and four small, isolated teams keep the service running in a socially distanced, Covid-secure, ‘foodbank al fresco’ in the car park of their base building. This has lost some of its attraction over the winter months, despite the provision of a gazebo as a shelter from the elements!

Last year GFB distributed food parcels (containing sufficient food to provide three meals a day for three days) to help over 1,800 adults and over 1,300 children, distributing around 36 tonnes (36,000kg) of food. This equates to 10,000 meals for a family of four people.

GFB provided additional food support to families during the school summer holiday and produced over 180 Christmas Hampers to make things better for families in the area. They continue to provide food support for other groups including people and families in temporary accommodation and are currently working with partner schools to make sure that families (especially those who are just outside the scope of Free School Meals provision) have access to food for their children.

Volunteers taking a break

Godmanchester FoodBank continues – although they would like to see an end to the need for our service.

Anyone interested in finding out more about GFB or becoming a referral agency should contact GFB  at or visit their website.

Hunts Community Cancer Network

Hunts Community Cancer Network (HCCN) is a local charity founded in 2015 by Susan Moore, working with a patient networking group. Now run by volunteers, the HCCN charity works alongside the NHS community cancer nurse specialists. Their aim is to support people across Huntingdonshire who are coping with a diagnosis of cancer to feel in control of their lives and be able to fully participate in questions about their health.

Susan Moore was the driving force behind the charity. Based on her own experience and needs, she had the vision to create a charity providing an holistic approach to managing a diagnosis of cancer. She worked tirelessly to improve the wellbeing of cancer patients, wanting people to take control for themselves. She was passionate about giving people the information and tools to remain in control of their diagnosis and not be dictated to.

The wonderful nursing team identified that having some portable drip stands would enable them to undertake more treatments in the community, cutting down hospital admissions. They asked, and the charity supplied!

The HCCN nurses, led by Karen Moseley at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, provide specialist oncology nursing interventions and support to cancer patients and their families. The team offers a different way to deliver cancer care – working in, with and for the community – reducing costs for the NHS and demand on clinics. Their aim is to deliver the best in oncology care against the National Strategies set out for cancer care and to continue to develop innovative ways of working to overcome increased service demands.

HCCN believes that good care is underpinned by mutual respect, valuing diversity, understanding and support. Cancer affects the whole family, not just the person with the diagnosis. It can be a frightening time, leaving people feeling unsure about the future and coping with the consequences of treatment. Having a designated nurse who can provide emotional as well as medical support – to reassure and offer treatment at home, act as advocate, enabling those seeing multiple consultants to move information around the NHS systems – makes that an easier path to navigate.

Increasingly cancer can be lived with in the same way as other long-term conditions, particularly when individuals are actively involved in managing their health. The HCCN charity creates opportunities for people to come together with others in a similar situation to offer mutual support, as well as delivering a range of activities proven to mitigate the side effects of cancer treatment, such as exercise, emotional well-being, nutrition and education. All their activities are provided free of charge and they rely on fundraising, donations and grants to fund this work.

RAF Benevolent Fund

The RAF Benevolent Fund has been supporting the RAF family for over 100 years. Their aim is that no member of the RAF family (serving, veteran and immediate family members) will be alone in their hour of need. As such the Fund provides a wide range of support.

Financial assistance

The Fund can cover costs for a range of issues including mobility aids, adaptations to the home, support with unexpected costs (such as white goods), support with priority bills or regular financial payment for care costs, gardening, social engagement and respite.

Assessment for eligibility is usually carried out by a visit from a case working organisation such as RAFA or SSAFA. During 2020 the Fund added a simpler self-referral application form for applications up to £750, which can be completed online.
Eligibility for financial support is savings under £12,000 (or £23,250 relating to those in care).

The Fund also provides benefit advisors and advocates as well as the recent addition of a Legal Advice Line to answer a range of issues.

Emotional Wellbeing

All the Fund’s emotional wellbeing assistance is non means-tested, providing a range of counselling and social isolation support.

A ‘self-help’ counselling option has been added online, alongside regular counselling support for issues such as relationships, low mood, self-esteem, bereavement, anxiety and for times of crisis. A 24-hour Support Line provides professional counselling wherever and whenever it is needed. Counselling support has now been extended to cover children aged 5-18.

Unfortunately, the COVID crisis affected the Fund, as with most charities, and sadly led to the closure of their respite facility, Princess Marina House. However, the Fund continues to provide support and funding for welfare breaks and is looking to extend this provision post lockdown.

During 2020 the Fund has had to continually adapt to support the RAF Family. ‘Check & Chat Calls’ were started to provide regular telephone contact with beneficiaries who were isolated. Fund staff stepped up to host ‘RAF Telephone Friendship Groups’ run in partnership with Silverline, enabling a doubling of groups provided. Currently they host over 20 groups of between 6-8 people for a weekly hour of chat and friendship. For some this has been the only social contact they have had during lockdown. It has proved so beneficial that these groups are now a regular feature of the Fund’s support.

Community Engagement Worker, Cambridgeshire

Community Engagement Worker Matt Rowe during a group visit to Duxford

In 2019 the Fund began a pilot project for Community Engagement Workers (CEW) in four counties across the East of England to promote the work of the Fund and engage with the RAF family experiencing social isolation. Matt Rowe is the CEW in Cambridgeshire and over the past two years has supported over 160 veterans and their partners. The role proved a great success and has been extended for a further four years.

For further details of support available from the RAF Benevolent Fund visit our web site at or call the Welfare Line on 0300 102 1919.

If you wish to make a referral regarding social isolation or would like advice about other types of support, contact Matt directly at or call 07784238185.

Sports Connections Foundation

The vision of Sports Connections Foundation (SCF), based in Peterborough, is to use sport to help and inspire children and young people to develop positive futures for disadvantaged children. They support children in their formative years with a particular focus on transition, inclusion and young people who are facing the challenge of poor mental health, social isolation and economic deprivation.

Since 2010, they’ve been raising opportunities and aspirations and engaged with over 500,000 children and young people nationwide through four established programmes:

  • Inspire Through Sport; developing positive futures for disadvantaged children, raising life aspirations, providing positive mentors and exit routes for young people facing poverty cycles and social isolation mainly throughout Peterborough and Huntingdon.
  • Sporting Wishes; helping to make dreams come true for some of the bravest children who are facing life-limiting illnesses, and providing respite from gruelling treatments and providing long lasting memories for families.
  • Pro-Kick School Challenge; a programme run in partnership with schools, developing teamwork and participation in sport, while teaching about global citizenship across the UK.
  • Inspire Through Sport International; using sport and education to guide children away from a life of poverty.

SCF co-founder Junior McDougald was raised in Huntingdon and is an ex-professional footballer. He has access to professional athletes who motivate and inspire the children and young people that they support. SCF are also able to utilise this network to help to deliver Sporting Wishes.

It’s a big thumbs up for a spot of rock climbing

The charity is a very small team of two full-time and two part-time staff, plus an amazing team of six volunteers who support with office and administration tasks, grant and trust applications and research projects for corporate partnerships and other engagement projects.

Sports Connections Foundation would welcome opportunities to work with other charities in conjunction with our Inspire Through Sport programme, either via our referral scheme or investigating possibilities of working on trust applications to secure and develop new projects in Huntingdon.

Please contact if you have any questions or would like to discuss any opportunities.