Community Support Service

Empowerment – Is this the Big Society?

King Arthurs Way is an area on the outskirts of the town of Andover. It is a large social housing estate, but the parish also covers the rural parish councils of Enham and Smannell. There are some social issues on the King Arthurs Way including anti- social behaviour of young people and low academic aspirations and subsequent achievement.

The Turnaround Project (a multi-stakeholder group) developed a wide range of actions to help improve the area after a community consultation. One of these actions was to develop a self-sustaining community association with the committee of local residents.

There was already a community hall and a ‘management committee’ facilitated by Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) who helped to ensure maintenance of the hall was undertaken. This committee was also supported by a staff member from Hampshire County Council’s Community Support Team. The hall is owned by TVBC. At the start of the project the only income was from limited room lettings.

Local partnerships

  • The community teams from TVBC and HCC worked jointly with the local embryo organisation.
  • The local churches have been very supportive and the church community development worker (who is a local resident) is now the vice chair of the organisation.
  • Though the group is autonomous there is a link to the Turnaround project.
  • Test Valley Community Services were also involved at times, and a staff member of TVCS (who is also a resident) became a trustee for a while.

The most important participants are the local people who have become trustees of the newly formed Community Association. Although this is still quite a small group, they are slowly increasing in numbers and becoming stronger, more skilled, capable and empowered.

Stabilizing the current structure

As with all these projects it is only possible to develop the organisational structure of the local organisation once the financial and physical structures are stable. In order to ensure and maintain this stability TVBC provided £50,000 in capital to improve the building and Hampshire County Council allocated revenue funding of £4,000 per annum from the Community Support Revenue Fund.

Building on existing community structures

Alongside the financial support, Hampshire County Council’s Community Support team followed this up with a programme of ‘capacity building’ within the community which enabled local people to develop the skills and knowledge they needed to manage their organisation and building. Informal training in the form of advice and support formed a large part of this process as this built confidence and knowledge into the group. This covered a wide range of themes including governance, health & safety, employment, project planning and many more.

There have also been more formal training courses including an introduction to the roles, responsibilities and liabilities of trustees. The committee attended this to help them decide if they wanted to become a community association, register as a charity and become trustees in the first place. Several of the trustees have since attended other more formal training provided by the HCC support team.

All this has enabled the local people who are now the trustees and managers of both the building and the organisation to enter into decision making often on challenging and complex issues

Developing the confidence of individual trustees and its consequent impact on the strategic development of the organisation has enabled the organisation to begin working towards a VISIBLE Communities™ quality standard. This is a national quality mark and they are only the second organisation in Hampshire to consider doing this.

Monitoring through contact

Ongoing advice and support at trustee meetings and on other occasions enabled much of this work to be carried out. It also provided a framework for monitoring the progress of the organisation and the assessment of the value for money of the revenue contribution.

Impacts/outcomes

The Community Association are going from strength to strength with the members feeling empowered and enabled. They are more confident in challenging decisions about their neighbourhood and are more active in local networks.

The projects they are developing and delivering include consultations with young and older members of the community. This has led to follow-on activities including fun days and older peoples activities and a regular youth club. They have also set up and run a job club in partnership with other agencies.

The projects increase participation of community members in a variety of activities many of which have the impact of improving wellbeing. This includes cross generational activities and a local environment section.

The group have been very successful in fundraising receiving nearly £40,000 in grants for a variety of projects and resources (including staff).

Specific activities related to revenue funding

In 2008/09 Alamein Community Association carried out a consultation with local young people. 343 young people responded to this consultation. This was followed in 2009/10 with the association facilitating a network of all youth agencies working in the area. This led to a partnership with Fushion youth group to run 2 evening sessions per week with 13 – 19 year olds. There is also a Kids Club that is run in partnership with the Turnaround project one night a week for 7 – 12 year olds.

A 3 year business plan was produced last year as part of the process towards Visible accreditation.

They have now become an integral partner of the Turnaround project groups providing a much needed community voice within this project.

This year they are working with older people on a holiday at home project and consultation and have also been providing a summer programme for young people.

They have already obtained lottery funding to refurbish their kitchen. They are developing a further lottery bid to the Big Lottery Reaching Communities fund next year. This is funding that the local authority cannot easily access.

Other activities now taking place in their building

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CAB, Mothers and toddlers group

Working partnership

Apart from the Turnaround project they are also working with :- the LSP, social housing, the children’s centre and local schools.

Finance

  • Income current - £27,477
  • Expenditure current –£23,416

Trustees and volunteers

Trustees have grown from 3 – 7. This is all that is required to make this organisation and activity function

Volunteers –form part of the Turnaround project – no actual numbers for these.

Did the piece of work contribute to any organisational strategic aims or policies

The establishment of the community association was an action identified by the Turnaround project.

The work contributes to Hampshire County Council’s strategies as indicated below.

  • Hampshire safer and more secure for all - This overarching priority is about developing and supporting stronger, safer communities for all by protecting vulnerable people, maximizing safety in the places we live, helping young people to live positive lives and helping diverse communities to feel secure. The work the Community Association has undertaken with young people has included and provided activities for them ensuring there are opportunities to help young people to live positive lives.
  • Maximising wellbeing - This priority is focussed around maintaining and improving quality of life and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to support themselves, be active in their community and have access to the services they need, whilst knowing that should things go wrong, there are systems in place to support them. This includes improving the wellbeing of those who have become involved as they are more empowered, but also the activities have improved wellbeing and the cross-generational involvement.
  • Enhancing our quality of place - This priority is all about making the county a good place to be by protecting local distinctiveness and diversity, ensuring excellent facilities, respecting Hampshire’s heritage and planning proactively for the future. The Amazing Alamein Environment Group contributes to this involving local people in caring for their local environment.

Which indicators does this work address

  • NI4 Percentage of residents who agree that they can influence decisions affecting their area.
  • NI6 Percentage of residents participating in regular volunteering
  • NI17 Residents perceptions of anti social behaviour
  • NI20 All age, all cause mortality rate – all persons
  • NI21 Residents perceptions of dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime issues by the local council and police
  • NI56 Obesity of primary school children in year 6
  • NI112 Change in the under 18 perception rate
  • NI117 Percentage of 16-18 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • NI163 Proportion of the population aged 19-24 for males and 19-59 for females qualified to at least level 2 or higher
  • NI186 CO2 reductions per capita compared with baseline last year
 

Notes about the process by which this is achieved

Practitioner Skills

Community Development principles were the basis of all the work carried out by the practitioners as it enabled the local community to take ownership of the organisation and developed a self sustaining group. Much of the work was to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of the volunteers through advice and support and training. Development of the volunteers took a variety of forms including formal training courses, often delivered to the committee as a group. To ensure this was effective the practitioners needed to be competent trainers.

The practitioners involved in this process needed a good understanding of the legal structures and needs of a community organisation to ensure the organisation was acting appropriately and within the law, this will also include supporting the organisation to develop policies and procedures. It is also vital that practitioners are able to keep up to date with current changes in legislation that apply to the organisation.

Knowledge about the VISIBLE Communities™ quality standard is core to the support of this group as they work towards achieving this. The workshops have been facilitated by the practitioners and this is a vital component of the process to enable the committee to take this process forward. This forms part of the development to enable the committee to engage with strategic planning and will be facilitated by the practitioner.

The practitioners also need to have a good overview of funding opportunities and be able to support the completion of application forms to funding bodies.

The development of networks at the early stages of group development is usually facilitated by the practitioner so they need the skills and knowledge to enable this to happen.

For further information contact Margaret Plumridge, Community Support Service, HCC – October 2010