Legacy gift enables older people’s peer-research project at Toynbee Hall

Legacy gift enables older people’s peer-research project at Toynbee Hall

“I find this project to be very powerful. It makes me very empowered; it makes me feel very listened to”

A gift given in the will of a long-term supporter of Toynbee Hall’s older people’s centre has helped enable an innovative peer-research project in our community. 

All those involved in Toynbee Hall’s first ever Participatory Action Research (PAR) project are deeply indebted to Mrs Patricia Singleton, who left a gift of £700,000 towards the Wellbeing Centre in her will. Mrs Singleton had generously supported the service over a number of years as a devoted volunteer and regular donor.

A portion of Mrs Singleton’s gift helped enable the PAR project in 2017/18, which involved a number of users of the Wellbeing Centre as well as other older people living in Tower Hamlets.

Having regularly volunteered at the Centre since the 1980s, she was close friends with many of our older people and well-known for running the popular bingo sessions there.

Through remembering the Centre and the people who use it in her will, Mrs Singleton helped enable 20 older people to lead this radical research and social action project – providing them with an opportunity to identify pressing needs in their community and offer solutions to address them.

“Although you feel you know people, you don’t really until you ask them specific questions. This project was quite a personal insight into people’s lives – they were very good to share it with me” (peer-researcher)

The project involved interviews conducted peer-to-peer in 21 community spaces across the borough – from local markets to libraries, GP practices, churches and mosques – with people aged between 50 and 96. The peer-researchers then produced a report outlining some of their recommendations to the local authority and voluntary sector on how these can best be met.

The legacy of the project – as well as Mrs Singleton’s generosity in enabling it – will be long-lasting: Toynbee Hall is currently designing older people’s projects that respond directly to the PAR researchers’ recommendations, as well as integrating their findings as we build on our existing older people’s services in 2019.

The legacy payment provided us with the necessary flexibility to innovate without restrictions and build a new community engagement model which has been met with excitement by our partners and the wider sector. This work has also paved the way for two new pieces of PAR work creating solutions to youth homelessness and improving safety on social housing estates.

Mrs Singleton’s gift will also help sustain the vital services offered by the Wellbeing Centre in years to come. We are delighted to show our deep gratitude and respect for this significant contribution by acknowledging her in the new Wellbeing Centre at 28 Commercial Street, which is due to open in summer 2019.

In the coming months we will be featuring other individuals who have generously donated a portion of their estate to Toynbee Hall, including John Clark, who left us £25,000 having spent 25 years volunteering at our Free Legal Advice Centre, and John Osborne, who donated to Toynbee Hall for over 30 years before leaving 2% of his estate to us.

We want to say a sincere and personal thank you to everyone who has left or is considering leaving Toynbee Hall a gift in their will. These gifts give us the means to support people in crisis and tackle the causes of poverty. Gifts in wills make a significant contribution to our vision for a future without poverty.

One day, your gift could provide older people with hot lunches and an opportunity to make friends in their community, equip young people with essential communication skills and self-confidence, or give families access to vital free legal and financial advice.

A gift of just 1% of your estate (residuary gift) could have the biggest impact on an individual’s life – supporting them when they are in crisis, and empowering them to build a brighter future.

You can read more about leaving us a gift in your will here.

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