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Connect Well Croydon – a community-asset based social prescribing project

Karen Chillman, Head of Volunteering at Volunteer Centre Croydon, with a local volunteer at a Connect Well Croydon event celebrating #NHS70

Karen Chillman, Head of Volunteering, explains why and how she set up this community-asset based project.

“Connect Well Croydon has been born from a local need. Our Volunteer Centre is based within the Centrale Shopping Centre, and we had a large number of people coming in who weren’t actually looking to volunteer – they wanted to be signposted on to other support in the local area. We currently have around 60 people coming into the Centre each week, but around half of these aren’t actually ready or able to volunteer, and my team were spending their time trawling the internet to try and find something else more suitable for them.”

With just 2.5 paid staff at the Centre, Karen decided to address this need and set up a service that would help local residents to quickly find out about the local services and support available. “We identified a need for a local activity directory that we could easily use, and whilst there are many other directories available locally, there wasn’t anything with specific activity details – so we decided to set up our own.”

“After speaking with Sirinda at Simply Connect (who provide our CRM database and volunteering software) we discovered they already had something suitable with their existing social prescribing platform. We worked with the team over a couple of weeks to get the system set up, and got started with populating our directory.

“We know the organisations, we trust them”

“We already work with more than 500 local voluntary organisations through our volunteering service, so we had a good starting point for getting started. We know the organisations, we trust them – so we ran a number of workshops to let them know about the project and to get their buy-in. After speaking with 110 organisations, only one chose to opt out of being part of the project.”

Whilst the Volunteer Centre didn’t receive any funding to set up the platform, they are fortunate to have a dedicated team of more than 100 volunteers supporting their service, and recruited 4 volunteers specifically to work on the Connect Well Croydon project. Each volunteer works on the project approx. 2 days each to reach out to new groups – “key work for building our intelligence about the local sector and getting them involved in our work.”

“Our Connect Well Guides are just ordinary people”

Connect Well Croydon is already having a positive impact on local resident’s lives through their ‘Connect Well Guides’ – volunteers who provide 1-1 support to people and help them navigate to the right support and service for them. “Our Connect Well Guides are just ordinary people – having a conversation with someone about what they’re looking for or are interested in, and then using the Connect Well site to find something suitable and make a direct referral on their behalf.

“We recently met a lady who had been waiting for 6 or 7 months for a GP referral to counselling services, and we managed to refer her into some community-based counselling that she could access the following week! We’re able to help people over a long period of time, supporting them to access a service and then re-visiting them to see if they need any follow-up support or to access any other services.”

The site is being widely used as a free signposting tool by the Volunteer Centre team, as well as beginning to be used by local GPs and Croydon Council’s Youth and Neighbourhood teams. “It’s definitely increasing local knowledge of the services available out in the community, and promotes the value of the sector. It’s great that each activity has a direct contact name, you can clearly indicate if there’s a charge to access a service, and the print-out feature is particularly popular as people really like having something tangible to take away with them.

“We’ve now got the Police interested in getting involved which is great, with Community Support Officer’s having access via their mobiles so they can quickly signpost residents whilst out on the streets.”


For more information about Connect Well Croydon, contact Karen Chillman on 020 8253 7070 or email


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