Posts by Janette Butler
Duke of Edinburgh volunteers lend a hand

In April, we hosted a group of young people with learning disabilities for a week at our sheltered housing schemes in Walton on Thames. The group, who are working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, chose to give their time to help residents of Fenner House and Mayfield with much-needed tasks like painting fences and tidying cupboards.

Supported by Duke of Edinburgh volunteer, Jean Casha, the group also helped to prepare Easter gifts for our residents, carefully decorating 100 bags and filling each one with a variety of activities and Easter eggs which were kindly donated by Morrisons in Weybridge.

Our residents really enjoyed having the young people for the week and were delighted that they joined in with their fundraiser for people in Ukraine.

The group even found time to help our Community Allotment volunteers with preparations for the Queen’s Jubilee by making woollen pompoms which will be used to create a celebratory Union Jack and Queen’s crown.

It was a great week for everyone involved.

Janette ButlerComment
Cook4Care continue their recipe for success

Cook4Care’s team of volunteer cooks arrive at the kitchens of Esher Rugby Club early each morning to prepare and cook healthy and nutritious meals for young carers across Elmbridge. Their army of volunteer drivers deliver home-cooked meals, and some welcome company, to homes where children and young adults are the registered carers.

Last year, we awarded a Community Grant of £4,000 to Cook4Care, enabling them to reach more young carers and their families here in Elmbridge. Since expanding their service, Cook4Care have cooked a staggering 3,690 meals for Elmbridge families, saving young carers 4,144 hours in shopping and cooking time.

The result - young carers have more time for their studies and to spend with friends and family, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution but, the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of physical and mental health problems. Being a carer is one of the factors that can increase loneliness and affect mental health.

Addressing loneliness and isolation is one of Walton Charity’s five priorities and we fund projects that support people’s mental health, encourage social interaction and help people feel more connected to their community.

As a result of Cook4Care’s work, Action for Young Carers Surrey has reported an increase in the emotional and physical resilience of the young carers who are benefitting from trying new foods and receiving respite from their caring responsibilities.

As one volunteer said, “I feel a sense of pride that I am volunteering for such a worthy cause. There is such a direct local benefit, and we get lovely messages from the families.”

Janette ButlerComment
Driving change for people in Cobham

A Community Grant of £30,000, over a three-year period, will help to secure the community bus service, Chatterbus, which provides free travel to people on low incomes in the Cobham area.

Chatterbus, a not-for-profit community initiative, is managed by local volunteers and operated by East Surrey Rural Transport Partnership. It was started seven years ago to address the lack of affordable transport in Cobham and the surrounding area and has been a firm local favourite ever since. It has been so popular that a second bus was added to the route in January of this year.

As well as offering free travel to those facing financial hardship, the service helps children get to school and adults get to work, cutting down the number of cars on our local roads. It also enables people to access the jobcentre, leisure centre and larger, more reasonably priced supermarkets outside the area. For many older people, the bus is a social highlight, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

A recently retired driver said, “I had the pleasure of meeting so many characters on the bus. Some of the kindest, most caring people, as well as some of the funniest and most clever people I have ever met. All have entertained me throughout my countless journeys, but I have also met some of the saddest, sometimes poorest and loneliest of people I have ever known which further emphasised to me that the Chatterbus really is all about the people.”

Janette ButlerComment
‘Mental Health and Me’ workshops for young people

A Community Grant of £3,000 will help the Lucy Rayner Foundation to run ‘Mental Health and Me’ workshops for local students at Three Rivers Academy in Walton on Thames.

The Lucy Rayner Foundation aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental health issues in young people and change the way mental health is perceived by society.

The interactive workshops, delivered by experienced facilitators, will give students in Years 9 and 10 the tools they need to manage their own mental wellbeing and better understand what is needed to take care of themselves.

Becky Rayner, of The Lucy Rayner Foundation, said “The funding we have received allows us to work with schools such as Three Rivers Academy who have stated that these workshops would be beneficial for their students to help with engagement, self-esteem, confidence, anxiety, and resilience. These are all topics that need to be addressed.”

Promoting personal health and wellbeing is one of Walton Charity’s five funding priorities. The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues and there is a growing need for mental health support particularly for children and young people. Research from the Centre for Mental Health shows that 1.5 million children and young people under 18 in England will need new or additional mental health support; and data from NHS Digital shows an increase in diagnosable mental health disorders among young people from one in nine in 2017, to one in six in 2020.  

Janette ButlerComment
Dad Matters - support for new dads

A Walton Charity Community Grant of £10,000 will fund ‘Dad Matters’ - a one-year pilot project run by Home-Start Elmbridge supporting local dads at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

Fathers who are struggling, or whose partner is struggling, are very unlikely to seek help. As a result, the mental health of both parents suffers, relationships break down and babies do not form positive attachments with their fathers which can have a life-long impact on a child's emotional wellbeing. Home-Start Elmbridge want to help men across the borough to access support when they need it.

Our funding will benefit approximately 60 Elmbridge fathers with children aged from birth to two years, helping them to manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. The project will also bring together new dads who are going through similar challenges.

Home-Start aims to ensure that all expectant fathers will receive information about the 1:1 support available prior to their baby being born and will work with antenatal teams at local hospitals to offer specific 'dad sessions' as part of antenatal courses.

Carol Hodges, Scheme Director, said “This much needed pilot project will run for one-year from our schemes in Elmbridge, Woking, Runnymede and Epsom, Ewell and Bansted, in partnership with maternity services at Ashford & St. Peter’s and Epsom & St. Hellier Hospitals.

Home-Start in Greater Manchester has successfully run this project for several years and if our pilot is successful here, we will increase the coverage across all 8 Surrey Home-Start schemes.”

Janette ButlerComment
Our allotment sites are now managed by the tenants

Walton Charity has a long history of providing allotments, dating back to the 1800s. These small plots of land have served people in our local area through two World Wars and many historical and cultural changes. A spike in interest during Covid-19 meant, once-again, demand for allotment plots rocketed.

With more people working from home and time on the allotment recognised as an ‘approved’ form of exercise, all four of our sites were at full capacity.

So, with a thriving community of plot-holders that represents a cross-section of our community, we have decided to hand over the reins to the allotment tenants, giving them a greater involvement in the decision making, and enabling them to lead on site-specific developments.

In January 2022, Walton Allotment Association officially took over the management of Walton Charity’s four allotments sites. Each site has its own management team with tenants taking on roles including Chair, finance and administration. Even in this short time, there has been an increase in the community feel of each site with more social events and site improvements.

Walton Charity will continue to support and work with Walton Allotment Association as demand for allotment plots evolves. Who knows what the next stage in the history of our allotments will be?

If you are interested in putting your name on the waitlist for a plot or would like to support the new Walton Allotment Association, please email

Janette ButlerComment
Planting trees for the Queen’s Jubilee

In celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, we have joined in the “Plant a Tree for Jubilee” campaign. Working with the Volunteer Elmbridge Tree Wardens, we have planted six fruit trees, creating a mini community orchard at our Mayfield sheltered housing, and have pinned our trees on the Queen’s Green Canopy Map.

The Queens Green Canopy is a tree planting initiative that forms part of the Jubilee celebrations. It honours the Queen’s leadership and encourages people across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”, creating a legacy to benefit future generations.

Down at our Community Allotment, preparations for the celebrations are also taking shape. Our volunteers and residents from our sheltered housing schemes are creating a huge Union Jack and crown from handmade wool pompoms. They’re also busy painting planters in Jubilee colours and we fully expect the Queen (in scarecrow form) to be in attendance for the celebrations!

If you have ideas to involve our sheltered residents or community allotment volunteers in activities to mark the Jubilee, please get in touch. Email us at

Janette ButlerComment
Cost of School Uniform Act - one year on

School uniforms can bring a school community together and help children to feel they belong, but they can also put financial pressure on families. 

In April last year, the government passed The Cost of School Uniform Act requiring schools to make their uniforms affordable for everyone. At a time when living costs are spiralling, cutting the cost of school uniforms is a welcome opportunity to help struggling families.

According to The Children’s Society Wrong Blazer Report, parents with children in state maintained schools spent on average £337 a year on school uniform for secondary school pupils, and £315 a year for primary school children.

Through our partnerships with local schools, Walton Charity is supporting children from low-income families with equipment, uniform and shoes for school. We are also funding learning programmes, IT equipment and mental health support in schools across Elmbridge as part of our community grants programme. In the last year alone, we gave out more than £20,000 in grants to help local families with the cost of school uniforms.

Covid-19 has presented huge challenges for schools, from adapting to remote learning to recovering lost teaching time, but as we emerge from the pandemic many schools are starting to review their uniform policy in line with the new government guidance.

For Lynn Williams, Headteacher at Chandlers Field School, it is small changes that can make a big difference to the cost of uniforms. Selling iron-on badges rather than branded items brings down the cost of school jumpers and cardigans, and offering a free uniform exchange helps to reduce cost and waste.

“Many of the ideas for initiatives at the school come from the children themselves. Our Uniform Exchange not only helps families to access free uniform it also encourages recycling and cuts down on waste which is important to our school.”

Offering iron-on badges for blazers also helps to keep costs down for pupils at Three Rivers Academy. Making jumpers optional (if blazers are worn) gives families more choice and is one less compulsory item to buy.

As part of the guidance from the Department for Education, schools are encouraged to keep branded items to a minimum and give parents a choice about where they buy clothing. Schools are also encouraged to make second-hand uniform available and ensure parents know how to donate and buy pre-loved uniform.

Research by MyNametages, shows that 1.4 million wearable school uniforms are thrown away each year in the UK. At Hurst Park Primary School, a dedicated Uniform Coordinator role on the school’s PTA ensures that pre-loved uniform is readily available for families. The volunteer coordinator is responsible for organising termly uniform sales and taking online orders throughout the year.

Jon James, Headteacher at Hurst Park, said:

“Although we believe uniform is important for our school identity we want to do what we can to make our policy inclusive. As well as having a thriving second-hand uniform offering, we have recently changed our PE kit in response to the new guidelines and feedback from parents. Changing to plain black joggers and plain t-shirts will make it easier for parents to buy items at a more reasonable price. We are also phasing in the changes so there is no pressure for families to go out and buy new items straight away.”

Putting affordability and best value at the core of a school uniform policy has the potential to make life easier for both children and parents or carers.

Find out more about the new school uniform guidance and how you can help your school to make positive changes to its uniform policy here

If you live in Elmbridge and need help covering the cost of school uniforms, find out more about Walton Charity funding.

Cost of School Uniform guidance

The new Government guidance says schools should:

  • Prioritise cost and value for money when setting uniform policy.

  • Engage with parents and pupils when developing their uniform policy.

  • Keep the number of branded items to a minimum.

  • Ensure second-hand uniform is easily available.

  • Make the uniform policy clear and easy to access for parents.

  • Ensure uniform suppliers are good value for money and avoid relying on single-suppliers where possible.

Janette ButlerComment
Helping Home-Start give vital support to Elmbridge families

Every year, Home-Start Elmbridge supports around 140 local families. Their experienced team, which includes 50 volunteers, provide emotional and practical support to families with young children who are experiencing isolation, post-natal depression and physical or mental health issues.

We are delighted to continue supporting their vital work through a three-year community grant of £60,000. This core funding grant will help cover office, administration and support staff costs, expenditure which many other grant-makers won’t fund.

Carol Hodges, Scheme Director, said “This funding is a substantial amount providing longevity to our core services. It provides our charity with the security to maintain and build on services as required. Families are not only having to cope with coming out of COVID restrictions but rising living costs. The number of families struggling emotionally has increased so this support is invaluable”.

Home-Start’s holistic approach provides families with crisis support, ongoing counselling and help with caring for family members facing illness. Their parenthood support groups also provide invaluable peer support to local families.

“Both of my Home-Start volunteers were open, warm and more than happy to help in any way I needed. They were never pushy, always very positive and seemed to adore my kids. Home-Start Elmbridge was there for me when I was struggling really badly”.

Janette ButlerComment
New Chromebooks for local primary school children

A new Community Grant for Claygate Primary School has paid for 10 Chromebooks to help families access homework online.

Hilary Ali, Deputy Head Teacher of Claygate Primary School, said: “We currently have a number of families who are experiencing financial hardship. These families have no tech at home - this is really impacting children in that they are not able to complete homework (which is all set online) and are struggling to access many of our online support packages which would make a real difference (online timetables support, reading packages, maths support). We feel that having a simple Chromebook at home enables additional learning to take place and will really made a difference to these children.”

Improving educational attainment for disadvantaged students is one of Walton Charity’s key funding priorities. The Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent school closures has disproportionately impacted poorer students and the attainment gap has increased between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils.

The Department for Education found that the effect of school closures on disadvantaged pupils is equivalent to undoing a third of the progress made in the last decade to close the learning gap in primary schools. Research by Vodafone also shows the socio-economic ‘digital divide’ impacts people's life chances and access to technology is becoming as important as reading and writing for young people’s future life chances.

Janette ButlerComment
Helping to support parents and carers of local teens

We are delighted to be able to again support the delivery of the four week Talking Teens programme to Elmbridge parents and carers.

Talking Teens is run by The Wellbeing Supervisor, Michelle Tucker, for parents and carers of pre-teens and through the teenage years, helping them cope with challenging behaviour and find ways to create a calmer, happier family life.

Michelle provides help in a non-judgemental and supportive way, aiding families to gain confidence, tackle some of the challenges and understand their teenagers better.

Whilst some parents and carers attending are referred by professionals, Elmbridge residents are welcome to self-refer and should contact Michelle Tucker directly:

“This has been a great course. I don’t feel alone and it was good to share experiences. I now try to praise my teen and see the positives more. There has been at least one brilliant thing every week that I have used and it has had a real impact.

I think the structure and timing works really well and being accessible by Teams makes it easier to attend and it kept me engaged through the four weeks. Every parent or carer should attend!”

Janette ButlerComment
New research into the changing picture of poverty in Elmbridge

As an organisation working in and for Elmbridge, we want to understand more about poverty in our borough: who is affected and how has this changed in recent years? What drives poverty locally and what are the consequences for people living in poverty?

We have commissioned New Economics Foundation (NEF) to build an up-to-date picture of poverty in Elmbridge and look at ways we can work with our partners and our local community to make Elmbridge a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Daniel Button, Senior Researcher at NEF, will lead the research:

“Elmbridge is known to be a pleasant place to live, but it also has its hidden challenges. In a previous report we produced for Walton Charity, we found that there were pockets of deprivation in the area that often go unnoticed and a wide pay gap between those at the top and bottom of the income spectrum. This has a number of consequences for those on low incomes, not least on the cost of living.

“The cost of living is getting a lot of attention at the moment due to rising energy prices. Yet we’ve been seeing a crisis of living standards for some time. In 2018/19, 3 in 10 people were already living in a household that did not earn enough to reach what the public think is a socially acceptable minimum standard of living. The impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic have accelerated the living standards crisis, and the impending energy price crisis is likely to make things worse.

“This research will help us to understand how these national trends play out in a place like Elmbridge, and how things have changed since we last worked here. It will enable us to pinpoint who is affected by poverty and low income, so that Walton Charity and its partners can effectively target key issues, ensuring that Elmbridge is a good place to live for all.”

To find out more about the research and opportunities to get involved, email Louise Elliott

Janette ButlerComment