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Gareth @Saltbox

CareLink Highly Commended in FaithAction Awards

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We’re very proud to see our CareLink service represented in FaithAction’s Faith & Health Awards 2018. Our elderly befriending service, which has spent the past ten years tackling loneliness and isolation across Stoke-on-Trent, was one of two charities featured in the ‘Highly Commended’ section of the awards.

FaithAction aims to shine a light on the best work undertaken by UK faith groups, in particular where faith-based organisations strive to keep individuals in good health while taking pressure off the NHS.

The overall 2018 winner was Hear Here! – Hearing Champions, a partnership between four hospital audiology departments and churches in Surrey and NE Hampshire. Local NHS staff work and train church volunteers to understand hearing impairment and basic hearing aid maintenance, allowing them to offer drop-in clinics in their local communities.

The 2018 Runners-up consisted of  NOAH Welfare Centre, a Luton-based drop-in service for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed, and Purple Room Cafe – The Fed, who provide social care and support to the Manchester Jewish Community through a range of services and initiatives.

Our very own CareLink was next up, featuring in the Highly Commended category alongside The Dairy House Elim Connect Centre, a hostel for rough sleepers in the Mendip area.

Saltbox would like to say a big well done to all organisations involved and thank them for their work in supporting the NHS and improving health and wellbeing across UK communities.

You can read a full write up on the awards over on FaithAction’s official website:

£316 raised at CareLink Charity Evening

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On Wednesday 13 June 2018, we held our CareLink Charity Evening at the Stoke-on-Trent Repertory Theatre. The evening consisted of a production of the play, ‘Nell Gwynn’, and a charity prize raffle. The event was a fantastic success and raised £316 towards our CareLink service.

We’d like to say thank you to the Rep Theatre for hosting us and also donating £5 from every ticket sold to our cause. Also, a huge thank you to all who donated prizes towards our raffle.

To us, £316 means that we can fund 2870 calls to find out how our elderly clients are faring, taking an interest in their welfare, helping them with day-to-day concerns or health issues, and especially lifting them out of chronic loneliness and depression.

A full photo gallery of the evening can be found over on our Facebook page.

Volunteers Week 2018

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Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution that individuals make to charitable organisations across the UK. Here at Saltbox, our volunteers give up their own time to help support us across the broad range of services we provide. This week we speak with our CareLink Volunteer Co-ordinator, Zi Makhiwa. Having worked at Saltbox for just over nine years, Zi is responsible for overseeing 30+ volunteers who in turn donate 370 hours a month towards our CareLink befriending service.  

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you end up working for Saltbox?

Having graduated in Law in 2007, I have had varied roles in my working life. I began as a meat packer then worked as a cashier, replenishing shelves at a supermarket, domiciliary carer then as an admin and care co-ordinator. I’ve also worked in Quality Control, Data Administration and in the mortgage department at a bank.  I came to Saltbox just over nine years ago after having to make a life-changing decision. I was only meant to be covering for a member of staff who was off sick for four weeks but have been here ever since.  My role is CareLink Volunteer Co-ordinator.  I enjoy working with people from all walks of life and enjoy listening to their life stories and what motivates them.

What does your day-to-day role involve?

I’m responsible for scheduling volunteers to ensure that our elderly CareLink clients receive their befriending telephone calls. I also support our volunteers in their roles and occasionally help them in their own lives too. When new volunteers join the team I oversee any recruitment and training requirements. I’m always encouraging them in their day-to-day activities at CareLink. This helps us to maintain an upbeat and exciting environment.  Happiness whilst carrying out your duties does translate over the phone and helps to provide an amazing and supportive befriending service.  Our clients often tell us they can hear a smiling voice over the phone.

What do you look for in a volunteer?

I look for someone who is friendly, caring, good at listening (very important!) and would like to help break up the monotony of the day for an older person who is lonely and isolated. Anyone interested in volunteering can call and speak to me at CareLink on 01782 810320.  Alternatively, they can fill an enquiry form on our website.  Here you will also find more stories from clients who will tell you about what a difference the service has made to them.

Have Saltbox got anything lined up to celebrate Volunteer week?

Oh yes, we do!  This year we decided to break away from the tradition of our usual ‘thank you’ meal. Instead, we’ll be taking our volunteers on a day trip to an amazing location – Carsington Water in Derbyshire.  We felt this would give them the opportunity to go somewhere a little different and also give them time to bond as a team.  They are all really looking forward to spending the day together and having a nice meal at the café there. I’m also looking forward to doing a spot of shopping!  We hope this shows our volunteers how much we appreciate all they do for CareLink. We really would not be able to support our clients as well as we do without our wonderful volunteers.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for plenty of photos and videos from our volunteer trip to Carsington Water!

Nell Gwynn Charity Evening

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On 13 June 2018, we will be joining forces with the Stoke-on-Trent Repertory Theatre to raise money for CareLink. There will be a production of ‘Nell Gwynn’ from which the theatre will kindly donate £5 from every ticket sold to our service. We’ll also be running a prize raffle and have collection buckets available on the night. In our latest blog interview, we speak to Charlotte Murfin, CareLink Admin Support Officer, who has a background at the Stoke Rep Theatre and has been instrumental in setting up the event

Tell us a bit about the upcoming Nell Gwynn production at the Stoke-on-Trent Rep Theatre.

Nell Gwynn, who will be played by Shelly Rivers, is a modern comedy set in Restoration Britain. It is running from Tuesday 12th – Saturday 16th June, with a charity night for CareLink on Wednesday 13th June. Tickets for the play are £11, and performances start at 7:30pm – 10.00pm (approx).

How will the production be supporting Carelink?

CareLink is a project that is part of Saltbox – a local charity, established and running within Stoke-on-Trent. CareLink uses telephone befriending to support people over 50 who are struggling with the effects of loneliness and isolation. It helps to keep them healthy and independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

On Wednesday 13th June, The Rep Theatre will be supporting CareLink in hosting a charity evening. This means that £5 of your ticket money, if you book through ourselves at CareLink, will be kindly donated back to our cause.

We will be holding a raffle on the night, and we will also have collection buckets for any further donations. Any donations made will continue to support Carelink and the valued service we provide throughout the local community.

How did your background with the Rep Theatre come about?

I graduated with 1st Class BA (Hons) in Music Theatre. During this time I explored adventurous and innovative practices in devising music theatre works. I was a two-year member of the university’s chamber choir, singing at prestigious events/ceremonies and touring parts of southern France. After my studies, I became a Professional Actor for T.I.E. companies (Theatre in Education). Here, through drama, dance and song, we’d tour schools, raising awareness on key issues that young people face.

I’m originally from Leek and joined The Stoke-on-Trent Rep Players in 2013. I’ve performed in varies plays with The Rep, from classic period dramas such as Shakespeare & Dickens, to more contemporary pieces such as the works of Alan Ayckbourn. I also perform with other visiting companies that will use The Rep as their chosen venue. I developed my career working as an Arts Development practitioner/co-ordinator for community-focused groups. In the past, I was the vocalist within a Latin/jazz quintet, and I continue to work with ‘Drumshack’, exploring Afro-Cuban vocal and percussion.

Alongside this, I continue to support Saltbox, recently singing at the Civic Prayer Breakfast, held in April 2018, as well as their OPEN forums in the past.

The Rep Player’s themselves produce five productions throughout each season. You can find further information on their website about how to get involved and future productions.

What do you enjoy most about working for CareLink?

CareLink is a lifeline to our clients and I feel proud to be part of a team who enable and encourage people to live their life to the full, against all odds – Our clients are quite inspirational.

How can people get tickets?

Further information on how to book tickets for the Charity Evening (Wed 13th June), can be obtained via at CareLink on, 01782 810320, extension 2.

Help W.A.V.E Goodbye to Loneliness

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Just before Easter our CareLink team leader Linda Stone spoke to BBC Radio Stoke’s Perry Spiller about Saltbox’s CareLink service and also the ‘Help W.A.V.E goodbye to loneliness’ campaign.

The W.A.V.E campaign is one of the actions by the Loneliness Strategy Group aimed at reducing loneliness and isolation across the city of Stoke-on-Trent. The goal of the campaign is to promote the involvement of whole communities in reducing risk factors and raising awareness by delivering the clear message that loneliness can be preventable. W.A.V.E breaks down as follows:

  • W – Who around you could be lonely? Keep an eye out for neighbours, friends and family who may be feeling lonely or isolated
  • A – Ask “Are you all right?” Take five minutes to chat and listen to them
  • V – Visit your local library to find out about activities and services that can help.
  • E – Everyone can play a part. Loneliness can significantly harm health, but little things like a friendly smile can make a BIG difference.

Regular updates about the campaign can be found by visiting the Healthy Stoke-on-Trent Facebook page.

BBC Radio Stoke have also been kind enough to provide audio from our interview, now available below via our YouTube channel.


BBC Radio Stoke ‘Make a Difference’ campaign

By Blog

As part of BBC Radio Stoke’s ‘Make a Difference’ campaign, CareLink team leader Linda Stone featured on the ‘Liz Ellis and John Acres at Breakfast’ earlier this week.

It was an opportunity to talk about CareLink and how our telephone befriending service is helping to tackle loneliness in Stoke-on-Trent.

“There can be a stigma attached to loneliness” explained Linda. “We don’t always like to admit we’re lonely but it can impact people across all walks of life. What we’re saying is, it’s okay to admit you’re lonely. It’s okay to reach out and ask for care and support”

Steve – originally a client and now also a CareLink volunteer – also took part in the interview. It was an opportunity for him to tell his story.

“I’m visually impaired. I’ve been living with sight loss for 15 years and became very reclusive, finding myself in a little world of my own. The Job Centre guided me in the direction of my doctors who recommended CareLink. It’s now getting me out of the house and I’m enjoying it. My advice to anybody in a similar situation would be to reach out to a charity like CareLink”

BBC Radio Stoke have been kind enough to provide us with the audio from the interview, now available on our YouTube channel, below.



Welcome to our new site!

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Welcome to the new Saltbox website and our dedicated section focusing on our CareLink service! 

Our upgraded site covers everything you need to know about how we provide befriending and welfare checks for vulnerable and isolated older people within our local communities.

First up, you can read all about the History of CareLink, detailing its early beginnings in 2007 on the back of a grant to successfully trial a telephone monitoring and befriending service in Stoke-on-Trent.

CareLink wouldn’t be what it is today without our amazing staff and volunteers. To celebrate this we’ve added a Team section where you can put names to faces of those who work so tirelessly behind the scenes, making everything possible.

For those of a statistical persuasion, you can also read about CareLink In Numbers. Here we give a high-level overview on the volume of clients and referrals we deal with, the number of calls we make (a massive 16,088 between during 2016/17) and also an indication of the money CareLink saves the NHS per year (£395,690 for 2016/17)

Our clients are always at the heart of everything we do at CareLink. In the new Our Friends section, you’ll be able to meet several of them, read their stories and see how our service has helped to change their lives for the better. We’ve also added a Media section where you can enjoy several videos and slideshows, revisiting 2017 day trips to places like Emma Bridgewater, Gladstone Pottery Museum and Westport Lake.

Finally, we’re always on the lookout for new volunteers, donations and fundraising to help keep CareLink moving forward. If you’d like to help make a difference by supporting local elderly, isolated and vulnerable people then we now have a Join The Team page complete with FAQs. There are also plenty of fundraising ideas in our Be a Fundraiser or Organiser section.

This is just a small sample of the new features available on our CareLink website. Feel free to have a look around and discover more. If you did have any further questions then please get in touch on our Contacts page, or visit Referrals if you know anybody who would benefit from the service.

CareLink Emma Bridgewater visit

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Throughout 2017 we’ve been taking our CareLink clients out on a series of heritage day trips. This week we made the short trek to the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-on-Trent. Our clients enjoyed some lunch and also spent time learning how to paint their own plates in the decorating studio.

“The purpose of these trips is to give our clients the chance to get out and about” explained CareLink team leader Linda Stone. “A lot of them don’t always get the chance to meet with other people anymore. With us they have the opportunity to come out, socialise and enjoy a good day out”

CareLink client, Joyce, has been with the service for two or three years now. “I enjoy being a part of CareLink” she tells us. “We always have a good chat. I look forward to it. Otherwise, I might not see a soul all day.”

To hear more from our clients, staff and volunteers, we’ve put together a short video of the day, available below