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A charitable fund offering financial support to social housing communities across Cumbria has been launched.

The £100,000 fund, set up by Cumbria Housing Partners, will provide grants of up to £10,000 to community and voluntary organisations running projects aimed at improving people’s employability or education. Activities which provide advice and guidance, support and engage people in their local community, and improve community facilities will also be considered.

Grants of up to £500 are also available to individuals aged 16 or over who wish to undertake work-based education or training to improve their employability.

John Clasper, Chairman of Cumbria Housing Partners, said:

“Cumbria Housing Partners’ has been successful in supporting apprenticeships and community projects in our neighbourhoods, over the last 10 years. Working with a recognised Cumbria based grant making body, such as Cumbria Community Foundation, will mean that our funds can go further and we can do more of this.”
The fund is administered by Cumbria Community Foundation, which connects businesses and individuals with the people that need it most. Projects are often able to secure additional funding from other funds managed by the Foundation.

Andy Beeforth, CEO of Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The Cumbria Housing Partners Fund aims to bring real, positive change and bring local communities in Cumbria closer together.”

“We are passionate about matching fundholders with the most deserving projects in Cumbria. This fund is particularly important because it will directly improve skills of some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.”

Community projects and individuals can apply for funding from the Cumbria Housing Partners Fund by visiting www.cumbriafoundation.org or calling 01900 825760.

World Film Collective

More than 20 young Cumbrians are learning how to be videographers and social media marketers thanks to a new pilot scheme from North Allerdale Development Trust charity in association with World Film Collective (WFC) charity.

Run by tutors Lyndsey Walker and Abi Welch from Carlisle and Edinburgh, the scheme teaches students all the technical skills they’ll need while also helping them improve their business acumen so that they can earn an income from their new skills.

The WFC has already seen success in Brazil, South Africa, and Palestine and chose to work in association with North Allerdale Development Trust to run its first employment-to-enterprise scheme in the UK, with the support of a £15,000 from local social housing buying group, Cumbria Housing Partners.

The project, which is aimed at young people from Wigton who are not in education, training or employment (NEETs), has taken on 23 young people, including eight who live in social housing run by Cumbria Housing Partners’ members. By the end of the course, each young person will be well equipped to make short films on issues which are important to them and their communities.

Sandra Keaveney, trust manager, at NADT, said: “This project allows us to offer young people in Cumbria that chance to learn a new set of skills that perhaps haven’t been on offer to them before. In addition to learning how to make short films and music videos, we’re teaching them how they can use social media to promote their new skills and make money from them.”

Lesley Dixon, director at Cumbria Housing Partners, said: “A quarter of all Job Seekers Allowance claimants in Cumbria are under the age of 24. With few job opportunities in the local area aspirations are often very low. This in turn leads to lack of confidence and self-esteem when trying to gain entry to employment.

“By supporting innovative schemes like this, we can improve the life chances of local young people and give them a voice within their communities, while nurturing a culture of enterprise.”

South Lakes

A group of Cumbrians are starting 2014 on a high note after securing employment opportunities with local construction contractors in Barrow and Ulverston.

Working together, social housing landlord, South Lakes Housing and local procurement group, Cumbria Housing Partners have helped five South Lakes residents secure apprenticeships or permanent jobs in a variety of trades, from plumbing to joinery.

Four of the new starters have gained roles with contractors, Bullocks, Keepmoat and Esh Property Services, which are employed via Cumbria Housing Partners to do repairs and maintenance on South Lakes Housing’s homes. The fifth, from Ulverston, is working for AB Mitchell – a contractor working on the homes of neighbouring landlord, Barrow Borough Council.

For every £1m worth of work channelled through Cumbria Housing Partners, each contractor commits to taking on two local employees.

Apprentice joiner, Susan Fox, said: “I went on the pre-employment course at Furness College and it gave me the skills and confidence I needed to get my foot on the ladder. The apprenticeship will give me a great start for a lifelong career in the trade.”

As well as matching potential apprentices to employers, Cumbria Housing Partners has supported the new recruits by providing interview skills training, mentoring, financial support via bursaries, and even the actual tools for the job.

Lesley Dixon, Cumbria Housing Partners’ Director, said: “Through the programme, we’ve provided training and job opportunities for those who may have been finding it difficult to gain employment. In fact, four of our former apprentices have just secured permanent work with local companies.

“This is a great example of how by working together, Cumbria Housing Partners and local social landlords can really make a difference to lives and futures of people in our community.”

Apprenticeships work for the businesses involved too as Keith Wilson, MD of Keith Wilson Electricians in Barrow, explains: “While we weren’t required to take on additional staff as part of our contract, apprentices are a fantastic addition to our business and we like to do our bit for Barrow. Our apprentices are all keen to learn, so we’re happy to teach them the skills they need to get onto the career ladder.

“Some people view apprentices as a potential drain on their business, however we find their enthusiasm and determination to succeed really refreshing. Their dedication to our company is helping us achieve a 100% customer satisfaction rate.”

Eden Housing Association has achieved a 17 per cent reduction for its kitchen refurbishment programme following a pilot into strategic procurement methods.

As part of the project which explored best practice and value for money, Eden Housing Association trialled two different methods for the procurement of its kitchen refurbishment programme – a traditional tender process and a collaborative consortia approach offered by Cumbria Housing Partners (the Cumbrian division of North West social housing consortium, Procure Plus).

Following a review of the two methods, the housing association found that the route offered by Cumbria Housing Partners and Procure Plus provided better value for money in terms of price, efficiency and effectiveness.

Kevan Guest, asset director of asset management at Eden Housing Association, explains: “There were clear advantages of switching our kitchen programmes to Cumbria Housing Partners. Not only did we receive excellent value for money, in terms of cost savings per kitchen, the tradesmen also provided high levels of customer service and performance throughout, which impressed both us and our tenants.”

In comparison to the traditional tender process, Cumbria Housing Partners helped Eden Housing Association to save around 20 per cent on the cost of each kitchen. The consortium approach also came out on top on supplier performance and customer satisfaction ratings, plus delivered added value benefits to the local economy, as Lesley Dixon, project manager at Cumbria Housing Partners explains: “As well as leveraging economies of scale to get the best price on services and supplies,  the project was also designed to maximise the benefits to the local area where possible. The scheme used local contractors who were selected through a rigorous procurement process, which helps ensure the money spent on the refurbishment scheme stays within the area. We were also able to build in training opportunities for local people too, meaning the positive impact of the project is really felt long after the works are complete.”

After being impressed with the high standards of service and costs savings it during the initial trial, Eden Housing Association has now switched its entire kitchen programme to be delivered under the Cumbria Housing Partners framework.

A Carlisle cycling scheme has given social housing residents a new sense of direction after helping them to be come qualified bike mechanics.

The ‘On Yer Bike’ programme, which was set up by Impact Housing, organised the training for a group of residents after receiving a grant from local regeneration group, Cumbria Housing Partners. As bicycle mechanics and future trail leaders, the new recruits will help run bike trips, community events and fix bicycles, as well as pass on their skills to attendees.

On Yer Bike was created by Impact in 2007 as a way of teaching important life skills to tenants from a variety of backgrounds. By giving its residents free access to bicycles and setting up regular races, trips and events, it also encourages greater interaction among communities and promotes independence, health and wellbeing.

Since its launch in 2007, On Yer Bike has grown in numbers with over 4,000 people using the scheme and as such, its need for volunteers to help run the programme has increased. Damien Morris, resident involvement coordinator at Impact Housing, explains: “The programme has been hugely popular, so when we needed to recruit extra pairs of hands to run our events and trips, we thought it was a great opportunity for some of our residents to develop further skills.

“To train these residents, we applied for a grant from Cumbria Housing Partners and received over £5,000 which has helped us get four of our residents – including three who were previously homeless – qualified as bicycle mechanics with future training planned to qualify them to become cycle trail leaders.”

Since completing their training in aspects such as bike mechanics, the four volunteers have become heavily involved with the running of the programme and are now looking to take over its day-to-day management. “On Yer Bike has really opened up new opportunities to our volunteers and given them some fantastic skills,” added Damien. “We’re really grateful for the funding from Cumbria Housing Partners which has made this possible.”

Carlisle-based Cumbria Housing Partners, which offers procurement services for social housing providers like Impact, gave £5,000 towards the scheme as part of its Sense of Place fund that finances community-based projects in the areas in which it works with housing providers.

Cumbria Housing Partners works with seven social housing landlords across Cumbria and uses a volume procurement approach to achieve cost savings on the materials and services needed to build and maintain properties. A proportion of the savings made by Cumbria Housing Partners through this method are then fed into the Sense of Place fund.

Concluding, Lesley Dixon, project manager at Cumbria Housing Partners, said: “On Yer Bike is a great scheme for the area – not only in terms of giving marginalised people a new chance in life, but also in promoting health and wellbeing to local people and helping communities learn and have fun together. It’s a fantastic programme to be part of.”

Works4You Carl Stainton

Two West Cumbrian apprentices have achieved a Level 2 NVQ qualification in Amenity, Horticulture and Landscaping, under a scheme run by social enterprise, Works4You.

Dale Quinn, 23, from Whitehaven and Carl Stainton, 25, from Egremont are the first two candidates to complete the course.

The enterprise, which is supported by social housing procurement consortium, Cumbria Housing Partners, was set up to give people furthest from the labour market the opportunity to gain training, qualifications and long-term employment opportunities.

During the programme, apprentices have the chance to work on maintenance, fencing and landscaping projects to develop their skills, as well as complete a City and Guilds NVQ qualification at Lakes College in Workington, Cumbria. Following completion of the course, the apprentices are also supported into employment.

Commenting on the scheme, Carl Stainton said: “The support we’ve received through the scheme has been fantastic and it’s been a brilliant introduction to working life. The course has taught me many new skills that I need to succeed in this career and I look forward to putting what I’ve learnt into practice.”

As part of its commitment to supporting enterprises in the local area, Cumbria Housing Partners has been working with Works4You, by providing business development advice and helping it to secure vital funding.

To ensure a consistent stream of work and training opportunities are available for the apprentices on the scheme, the consortium is working closely with its registered housing providers and contractors from across the region to identify suitable opportunities and secure work contracts.

To date, Works4You has secured grounds maintenance and fencing work for the trainees roles from the consortium’s landlords Home Group, Impact Housing Association and local landlord, Westfield Housing Association.

“We want to do all we can to provide training and employment for individuals who otherwise might not be able to gain entry into the labour market, and supporting schemes like Works4You is a great way to do this, said Lesley Dixon, project manager at Cumbria Housing Partners. “Through the work contracts we’ve been able to secure with our members, we’ve been able to ensure Works4You is self-sufficient and fully sustainable so it doesn’t have to rely on grant funding anymore.”

Recognising this achievement, Works4You was recently crowned ‘Cumbria Social Enterprise of the Year’ for its success in growing its order book and increasing its turnover without grant support.

As well as working with housing providers to reinvest a proportion of the savings made by the consortium back into the community, helping to create local jobs and encourage regeneration, Cumbria Housing Partners also guarantees that for every £1m spent with one of its contractors, a minimum of two local people are given a chance to gain sustainable employment.

For more information on Works for You, please email enquiries@works4youltd.co.uk