Expanding our services with the new guidelines

This is the first week of the new rota, it has been decided to increase our volunteer bubbles now guidelines are lifting, and the numbers locally are dropping. The Takeaway service is still outside as we feel it is safer and much better for social distancing. We are not making any decisions as to when we go back inside to provide sit down meals as we did pre COVID, but it will not be until at least the Autumn. Many of our clients do not wear masks as they are exempt or chaotic, do not socially distance and will not have a vaccine. This of course has to be taken into consideration, we happily survived the winter and everything that was thrown at us, so we all are happy to continue outside throughout the Summer. 

It was great to see so many of the volunteers together again, we all like to see and experience the engagement with extra volunteers as it gives more opportunity to speak to individuals as that side of volunteering is so important and we know the clients get so much out of it. It has become evident that mental health for many has deteriorated and people are struggling. We like to give people as much time as we can to chat, support, provide advocacy and signpost. Volunteers build relationships and trust with individuals and each week they like to come and see us for that ongoing support.



The larger volunteer groups may look quite big, but it can be busier than a Saturday and now the weather is getting better, and evenings lighter people will no doubt hang around a bit more than they have been. It is still important to ensure as much as possible that people adhere to the group rule of 6. Social distancing is expected which is impossible at times so with this in mind we have decided to stay outside for now. We have all had our vaccines and some of us our second, so we all feel much safer being frontline now, different to the way we have done since March 2020.

We open at 6pm but our clients start queuing from about 5.30pm. This means some volunteers set up while others work to ensure everyone is in line safely and there are no issues to deal with. Sometimes certain people have been drinking throughout the day or their mental health causes them to be anxious, paranoid or nervous. We have to make sure everything stays jovial and safe. 

Kate is now back to provide haircuts, now the guidelines allow her she will be coming every week. It is great to see how she just turns up regardless of the weather, light conditions (especially in the winter) and cut anyone’s hair who needs it, she trims beards too! This increases people’s self-esteem and as we all know due to COVID there is a lot of unkempt haircuts out there desperate to be tamed.  It is a great service; we are very lucky to have her. 

Food this week was an Italian pasta recipe called Amatriciana (tomato and bacon pasta). As we have a freezer full of bacon and crates of pasta at the moment it seemed a good meal to recreate. Julie, as usual did a great job and the feedback was excellent. She also made vegetable soup and bread and butter pudding with custard. We were slightly quieter this evening, but 50 meals were given out.


It’s been a hard week this week. We had a funeral, of which Meryl our founder and Mai-Britt lead volunteer were invited and able to go to represent the Soup Kitchen. The service was lovely, and the crematorium was full of the allocated 30 people. Addiction is a terrible destructive thing to be in the claws of. Even with a supportive loving family and a big circle of caring friends sadly the demons and hold that the addiction has is often too much. At Newbury Soup Kitchen we become very fond of our clients and work incredibly close with some of them to help them engage and find the organisations they need to help them improve their lives. It is desperately sad we cannot help everyone. Since the beginning of COVID a group of our clients have passed away as a result of addiction. Often silently without a grieving family or recognition of their lives. It is a sad fact that so many addicts have lost all contact with their families. It was lovely this week to see the love and wonderful family behind this lovely person. He will be truly missed. 

This coming week we will be introducing a new outreach service on Tuesday 2-4pm at The Salvation Hall. We have had to change our outreach sessions since COVID-19 due to social distancing requirements. The Salvation Army Hall is not quite big enough to allow all our outreach services in one place. During this period of social distancing and Covid requirements we have had to reduce services we provide. For now, we will be holding two outreach sessions on a Tuesday. These two sessions are community and mental health nurse clinics and the new eye health clinic. @Valarie Jarome will be coming each week to provide eye tests and eye health checks. 


Many diseases often begin with little or no obvious symptoms, yet they can be picked up in a routine eye test. If spotted early, a diagnosis of one of these illnesses can be lifesaving. According to: Optical express.co.uk

Here are just five conditions that an eye test can save your life:

  • Diabetes
    • An estimated 750,000 people in the UK have diabetes but don’t know it, according to Diabetes UK. Unmanaged, it can eventually cause blindness, cause you to lose a limb, or in most severe cases, it can kill you.

It’s easy to miss the silent symptoms; however, a small amount of bleeding on the retina will be picked up in an eye exam. When the blood vessels in the central area of the retina (the macula) are affected, this is termed ‘diabetic maculopathy’ and is one of the most common causes of sight loss.

  • Brain tumours
    • Spotting a brain tumour early can be a matter of life and death. Over 5,000 people lose their lives to a brain tumour each year, while over 10,600 people are diagnosed, according to the Brain Tumour Charity.

An optometrist (also known as an optician) can check for blurred vision and monitor unusual pupil dilation and the colour of the optic nerve. A Visual Fields diagnostic test can assist in the diagnosis. This test is widely available within optometry practices today. If anything looks out of the ordinary, you’ll immediately be referred to a neurologist.

  • Heart disease
    • Cardiovascular disease kills someone in the UK every three minutes, according to the Heart Research Institute. An optometrist can spot a white ring around the cornea (the clear surface of your eye), which can be an indicator of high blood cholesterol, a common contributor to coronary heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke.

Multiple Sclerosis

  • The average life expectancy for people with MS is around five to ten years lower than average, according to the NHS.

Multiple sclerosis can cause swelling of the optic nerve, which creates a specific visual field defect called a ‘scotoma’. This is straight-forward to pick up during a routine eye examination.

High blood pressure

  • High blood pressure was responsible for approximately 75,000 deaths in the UK in 2015, according to the Blood Pressure Association.

Many people discover they have high blood pressure following an eye test. It can cause burst blood vessels at the back of the eye – easily spotted during a routine eye exam.

 The new eye clinic with work very well alongside the community nurse who will be able to support with medical engagement should it be necessary. 

The HOLT community nurses have been providing outreach at our Tuesday sessions since we have been able to reopen again. It is difficult sometimes to get people to engage as often anxiety which can be crippling, and paranoia can get in the way. This is one way that Meryl and the other volunteers can help. Our clients get to know us over a period of time and during that time they will often start to open up and trust us. The outreach sessions as part of our extended services kindly provided by social care professionals give our clients a feeling of familiarity which helps with their engagement. Small steps for us are often enormous steps for our clients. Coming over the threshold to meet a community nurse or ophthalmologist is massive. 

Engaging with everyone and building strong trusting relationships is very important to all our volunteers. This is not just a part time voluntary position to us this we are all completely committed and invested in what we do. 

We have updated our Amazon Wishlist  http://tinyurl.com/6v4z3lju which has items that we use every week for the sessions and also with items that support the council and hostel outreach workers who can come to our new unit and help themselves to anything they need for vulnerable people we all work with. 

Pot Noodles are in constant demand. We give out over 100 a week so they are on our wish list all the time. People who have been housed still need ongoing support, so we regularly put items on the list for them too. 

Collaboration is key and now we have storage and facilities in one place we can do this more effectively.  Your donations matter and make a difference to people’s lives. 

Our project on The Good Exchange has recently ended so until we put up a new one donations can be done through our Facebook blogs as there is a donation button which is at the top and you can reach our Just Giving donation page here.  http://www.justgiving.com/haven-westberkshire 

Please contact us directly if you require our bank details. 


Cheques can be posted to 

Newbury Soup Kitchen

C/o HAVEN (West Berkshire)

1 Hambridge Lane,


RG14 5TU


Thank you. 

Thank you for reading our weekly blog and supporting Newbury Soup Kitchen.