Girlguiding Manchester pin hopes on newly-launched badge to help with creating caring communities and tackling loneliness

A trial run of a first of its kind Girlguiding Manchester badge that reached out to those who may feel lonely, has been so successful it is being formally rolled out this week across the whole of Manchester and beyond for girls aged 5 upwards. It is likely the badge and its model will then be adopted by other units across the country.

Now, some 4,000 Girlguiding Manchester Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and members of The Senior Section from Wythenshawe to Glossop can have the chance to not only improve health and wellbeing, but also be part of reciprocal projects with older people to break down age barriers and tackle loneliness.

The breadth of topics within the specially designed badge will also allow for discussions around the importance of communities working together, and the importance of talking, especially in the aftermath of the recent Manchester Arena attack.

The move is a first and was the idea of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC) – the new commissioning partnership agreement between Manchester City Council and Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group­ ­- working initially with two Brownies units in Wythenshawe and Gorton and Girlguiding Manchester’s Guiding Development Adviser.

Ian Williamson, Chief Accountable Officer, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, said: “We know that loneliness can be devastating in both its physical and psychological effects, especially for older people. There’s so much evidence to show how it contributes to lowering the immune system and making people more prone to illness as well as a major impact on wellbeing. If youngsters know this, they can lead by example and raise awareness of an issue that we can all help to solve.”

Helen Salvini, Assistant County Commissioner, Girlguiding Manchester said “Community action is a key part of the guiding programme for all age groups and we were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Manchester Health and Care Commissioning to develop this badge. As well as making links in their communities the badge will help our members become safer, more independent citizens by teaching them skills like personal safety, first aid and how to take care of themselves and others. Young people are often portrayed poorly in the media so it is fantastic to have this opportunity to showcase all the good work that they do.”

The pilot badge started just before Christmas and also called on the advice of gran-of-16 Veronica Armstrong, herself a former Brownie, who helped with the plans for generations working together.

Part of the events included young members from 2nd Northenden (St Wilfrid’s) Brownies and 1st Northenden (St Wilfrid’s) Rainbows, putting on a play at a sheltered housing court in South Manchester. They also arranged a special indoor camp fire with story-telling and craft sessions.

Veronica, 67, from Northenden, said: “Me and my age-group have the time to spend with children and we can give them a different view on life. We also have skills we can show them like sewing, learning to knit and doing gardening.

“Plus, a lot of my friends miss their families because they don’t live near their own children or grandkids – and they would really like to have that ongoing involvement with children’s projects.”

After visiting the sheltered housing court one Rainbow said “can we go back every week?” whilst another added “I made a new friend, [Margaret 72], when can we come again?” and a third said “I like doing our activities together”.

To earn the newly-launched badge and a special pin from MHCC, the girls will have to show that they have completed a series of challenges that both embrace the Girlguiding ethos and a new way of working called the Our Manchester approach – where communities are finding new and innovative ways of creating a healthier city.

By the end of the badge the girls will not only gain their badges , but also a reference from Council leader Richard Leese and MHCC chief Ian Williamson, to help with prospective school, college or job applications.

Cllr Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adults Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council and deputy chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, said: “This award is a badge of success in many ways. Intergenerational work engenders respect and a better understanding of the different ages – and stages – that make up our vibrant city.”