Achievements April 2021 – March 2022

ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE: April 2021 – March 2022

Introductory comment – Coronavirus Pandemic 2021:

During the year covered by this Trustee report the UK was still experiencing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic even though many of the restrictions that had been in place during the year 2020/21 had been withdrawn. The Charity was able to operate without significant restrictions being in place, however we have found that the return to our normal level of attendance from both visitors and volunteers was quite slow.

In effect, even though we had maintained high levels of support for people during the pandemic, with regards to the return of physical visits to the Lighthouse Project Hub we were having to significantly rebuild both visitor attendance, and volunteer support of the work.

Charity Overview
Inspire Middleton is a community development charity, and our aims can be summarised by our desire to inspire people, places and organisations. To help people understand why our charity name is not emblazoned on everything that we do, we describe the way we work as ‘the plant pot model’, because a plant pot is something that helps other things to grow, and the things that are grown are the focus of people’s attention more than the pot they are carried in, and so it is with us.

We run a number of community projects and activities through which the charity’s objectives are advanced: and these are the names that the public will be more familiar with. They include, the Lighthouse Project, our drop-in style community centre/hub, Middleton Central Foodbank, Lighthouse Money Advice our FCA registered debt service, and the Lighthouse Pantry.

We operate out of leased premises on the second floor of Middleton Shopping Centre right in the heart of Middleton town centre. We moved into these premises in December 2016 on a 3-year short-term lease, and during the last year we have been able to renew our lease for a further ten years running between December 2019 – December 2029.

The building and location makes a significant contribution to the success of our work, it means we are centrally located, have ease of access in terms of transport and disabled facilities, and in normal non-covid circumstances we also have good regular passing footfall. Our footfall additionally contributes to the wellbeing of the Shopping centre as people visit local shops as well as attending our activities.

The Lighthouse Project is one of our specific charitable objectives, and as a community hub it is used as the main outlet for advancing many of our other charitable aims.

Middleton Central Foodbank is co-located within the Lighthouse Project, and it is run as part of the national Trussell Trust foodbank network, in collaboration with local churches, tackling individual crisis, poverty and hardship.

The Lighthouse Pantry is a membership food club that helps people and families who are struggling to cover their weekly/monthly household costs, by offering them access to supermarket surplus food to reduce their weekly food costs so that they have more money to spend on other household costs. The Pantry is part of an emerging national network operating under the banner of ‘Your Local Pantry’ managed by Church Action on Poverty.

The Lighthouse Money Advice service is a FCA accredited debt advice service run as part of the Community Money Advice network. The service offers free advice and face-to-face support for people experiencing personal debt and financial crisis. Many of the clients are referrals from the Foodbank, and several of our team are dedicated to supporting Foodbank and Pantry members.

Highlights and Project Activity Summary

Attendance

Lighthouse Project as a whole

During the year some of the governments Covid-19 isolation and control regulations remained in place, whilst some were gradually being phased out. This meant that for part of the reporting period there were still some restrictions on access to the Lighthouse Project centre and its activities.

The Lighthouse centre itself remained open throughout the period, and the Foodbank, Pantry, and Money Advice service were all kept running. Some projects and services were progressively opened to facilitate a return to activity albeit in modified forms to reduce risk, and accommodate social distancing, etc.

Highlights

  1. Annual Footfall of – 29,343 visits during the year (84% of pre-covid target) – this would typically have been circa 35,000 visits but this was curtailed by the ability of people to physically attend the centre. As mentioned above we were able to keep all of our emergency & essential activities running, within the limits of the Coronavirus guidelines, with a progressive return of some of our social, leisure, and learning  activities as the government Covid-19 restrictions allowed.
  2. Sessions – during the year we ran 4573 sessions/activities supporting people’s needs
  3. Individual Visitors – 1,699 different people/visitors were directly supported during the year.
  4. New Visitors attending – 927 new people who first visited between July 21 – June 2022

People/Families Fed

Middleton Central Foodbank

The Foodbank remained open during the entire year. The service had been redesigned during the pandemic to reduce the amount of time people spent waiting for food parcels, and the preparation process was also adapted to reduce risk, and to accommodate social distancing.

Highlights

  1. During the reporting period the Foodbank redeemed 1459 vouchers, which is above our annual target but a slight reduction on our previous year’s achievements. The pandemic saw the emergence of numerous new groups and self-help organisations, including Council led projects that provided alternative sources of free food relief to people in difficulty, who were self-isolating, or who had been told to stay-at-home. So, with all this additional food support available this variance is understandable.
  2. The food parcels we issued provided the equivalent of 71,800 meals during the year, supporting 1993 adults and 874 children (2867 in total), who came from 636 different families.
  3. The foodbank received 28.2 tonnes of food donations during the year from a variety of groups, individuals and organisations in a typical year prior to the pandemic the donations received would have been around 25 tonnes, so we continued to see a positive increase in donation support.
  4. The foodbank gave away 37.5 tonnes of emergency food which is 9.3 tonnes above the amount of food received during the year. This equates to approx. 71,800 meals. Some of our support also included us donating food to other organisations who provide emergency support themselves, such as our local children’s centres, and community centres providing cooked meals and support packages.

    We helped these groups so they could sustain the emergency activities they had created, as we believe that they were helping people who may normally have visited us, but due to Covid-19 restrictions were being asked to stay closer to home.
  5. We additionally donated to several other new groups and charities providing food in order to help them support different families and individuals in need, e.g. local veteran’s groups. We choose not to operate in isolation, and therefore seek to support other groups, who are themselves in need, in just the same way as we too receive support from people who see that we are in need. 
  6. In a typical year we would normally expect to give out a similar amount of food to what we receive. This year we gave out an additional 9.3 tonnes of food above the level of donations received, reflecting the ongoing demand and need for family food support.
  7. The main causes of food crisis reported to the Foodbank during the year changed from the historic pattern, and this year they were found to be:  1) low income (64%), 2) Debt, 3) benefit delays, 4) Benefit changes, 5) Sickness. This is showing a shift in the reasons families are struggling to make ends meet, where family finances (low income and debt) are now becoming the main causes of difficulty, by a substantial margin.
  8. To help us distribute food within the community, the Foodbank has over 75+ referral agencies on its books, which includes, local schools, community groups, churches, and other support agencies. During the pandemic we also accepted and received referrals from many new organisations who were not on our books and who had not been referring into the Foodbank before. We chose to do this to make sure that there were as few barriers as possible for families to get access to crisis food support whilst still maintaining appropriate checks and balances from the referrers.

Lighthouse Pantry

The Lighthouse Pantry remained open for three sessions per week during the entire year and had been operating at this level since May 2020. The service had been modified to allow social distancing and to reduce direct social contact. The project continued to grow during the year increasing the number of members and families it reached and supported.

Highlights

  1. The Pantry ran 146 sessions, and supported 3693 member visits during the year. This was a 24% increase in the number of members attending over the same period last year. The growth was driven in part by the ongoing and increasing needs of people struggling with low income and the resulting financial difficulties.
  2. We supported 300 different families (62% increase), and within these families there were an additional 402 adults or children, so collectively the Pantry supported 701 people (60% increase).
  3. The Pantry supplied over 20 tonnes of food for members to use, equivalent to 47,200 meals, with an estimated retail value of approximately £108,500.
  4. During the year a typical members average weekly ‘shop’ was calculated to have an approximate retail value of £27.37, which meant that for every £1 members spent (£3.50 / week) they received an average of £8.39 worth of food in return! This is an excellent social return of value for them.
  5. This produced a potential saving of £1,294 per family on their annual food bills, which leaves more money available for other household expenditure, which is one of the primary aims of the Pantry.
  6. In addition to this, during December 2021 – February 2022 we covered the cost of the weekly membership fee for each family, so they received 12 weeks of free food support, worth a further £42.

Collectively the Pantry and Foodbank provided food support for 3568 individuals from 936 families.

Financial & debt support

Lighthouse Money Advice

The Lighthouse Money Advice service remained open and active for the whole of the year. Initially when the pandemic started we had to stop all face-to-face interaction and switch to remote access only, however as restrictions eased during the year we were able to reintroduce face-to-face appointments for some elements of the service in controlled settings.

The impact of the pandemic in many ways created a delay in terms of people requesting debt support because the government placed embargoes on some types of debt collection, evictions, etc. This meant that some clients benefited from the relief that these measures brought. The downside however, meant they didn’t always come forward to get support because the pressures had eased. As the Covid-19 protection measures came to an end we started to see a growing number of people requesting help for debt relief or financial support.

Highlights

  1. During the year we had 306 different clients (96% increase) who made use of our service on at least one occasion, experiencing collective personal debts estimated at £772,620 in total value.
  2. Of these we had 149 new clients (180% increase) requesting support.
  3. From the clients supported during the year, £215,423 worth of debts were removed by Debt Relief Orders (DRO’s), and a further £25,257 was written off by creditors – totalling £240,680 of debt relief. Many other clients tackled their debts through the use of other options such as Debt Management Plans valued at circa £27,333, or Bankruptcy valued at £16,940.
  4. For clients helped with benefit advice we recorded £175,067 worth of benefit increases or expenditure reductions during the year.
  5. For each client/family supported by the service the knock on benefits of improvement in health, mental health and general wellbeing are clear to see once they start to get help, or they see their debts/benefits being reduced/increased, or removed. In many cases these improvements are considered by the clients as ‘significant’, and some would even say ‘life changing’.

Employment skills and getting back into work

We were able to offer some employability support during the year, however this was still mainly by remote interaction with some limited face-to-face engagement as restrictions allowed. During the year the governments furlough scheme was in place supporting employees of businesses that were unable to trade during the various lockdowns, and encouragements to ‘work at home’. This meant that many retained their jobs even though some companies were not operational.

Highlights

  1. During the year we supported 58 people who were looking to improve their life chances by developing their employability skills and to help them get back into work, or improve their chances of getting back into work.
  2. Of these people we recorded 149 attendances for activities related to actively looking for work, improving their job hunting skills, and improving work place skills through online learning and face-to-face appointments.
  3. We provided CV support for 54 people, and 8 people specifically told us that they had managed to get back into work. The real figure is likely to be more than this, potentially 30+ people, based on the number of CV requests we received from employers prior to clients starting. It is par for the course that unfortunately not everyone comes back to tell us of their successes.

Family and Children support – Toy Appeal

Over the last four years we have organised an annual ‘Toy Appeal’ aimed at collecting toys and games from the general public to support Lighthouse Project families, and others who may be referred to us from partner organisations, including local schools and foodbank referral agencies. It is intended to ensure that as many families as possible that we work with, or are connected to, are able to have some toys and gifts to open at Christmas.

This year we again worked with local organisations, individuals, and schools to collect toy donations for giving out. Middleton Shopping Centre (our landlord), and our local Tesco Extra, and other groups helped us with the promotion and setting up of collection points. Both also donating toys themselves. In the shopping centre a ‘Giving Tree’ was used as an alternative to their regular annual Santa’s Grotto which was not possible due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. It is safe to say that we were inundated with toys, gifts and financial support for the Appeal.

Highlights

  1. We were inundated with local support providing toys, gifts and financial donations.
  2. We were able to support 187 children from 74 different families. Each child receiving at least one main present, 4 medium presents, 3 small presents, a game, book, confectionery, and stocking fillers.
  3. 17 children came from the Lighthouse Project and foodbank families, 66 children were referred through local schools, 86 children came from Pantry families, and 18 children came from Lighthouse Money Advice families.
  4. The local schools, as well as nominating children, also arranged fun themed toy collections, sponsored runs and devised other interesting ways of giving toys and donating money.
  5. We received over £1,500 in cash/voucher and online donations which help us buy targeted gifts and gift cards to fill gaps in the types of toys donated, and so we could help and support different aged children. This made sure that no-one missed out.
  6. We also supported another local community centre, Burnside, who we work with regularly, by providing them with additional toy donations from which they were able to set up a ‘toy bank’ to support some of their own families.

Social Leisure and Health Activities

These are the groups and activities which were most affected and impacted by the pandemic, as they generally all involve close social contact or interaction. Therefore, many of these activities remained suspended during this year. However, when the easing of restrictions allowed, and it was safe to do so, we did start to facilitate the return of some activities. We supported and encouraged people whenever we could.

Highlights

  1. During the year we started to re-open some social and leisure activity groups as the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and people felt safe and confident to return.
  2. We ran 1,018 social/leisure/heath related sessions/activities which were attended by 732 different people.
  3. These activities included physical events, such as walking, leisure activities/interest groups, and some social groups/gatherings.

Other Achievements and Developments

Core Staff: This year we particularly want to acknowledge and give thanks and appreciation to our core staff team who have worked so hard during the season of the Covid19 Pandemic, Pam Semp, Cath Stott, Dave Melia, and myself, Carl Roach, who all live locally in Middleton, and who have such a great passion to see the Community changed and transformed through our work. This team have worked relentlessly over the last few years, and their willingness to adapt and change in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is to be greatly commended.

With the loss of 80% of our volunteers at the start of the Covid-19 restriction this meant that a lot of responsibility shifted onto the shoulders of this core team. There was a moment at the beginning of the pandemic when circumstances were such that we seriously considered closing down and hibernating the whole project. However, in our hearts we knew we couldn’t do that, and there was fresh agreement and commitment to do whatever was necessary to keep on serving the community through challenging times.

The collaboration and flexibility of the team was key to making all the changes to our services work, and they underpinned all that we did and were offering. Well done, and thank you! Much of your work may have been unseen by the majority, but it didn’t go unnoticed by those of us who see behind the scenes.

In June 2022 we sadly lost Dave Melia, our support worker, who passed away after a determined fight with cancer, and a short period of care in Springhill Hospice. We want to acknowledge his memory and lasting legacy. Dave had been a volunteer with us before joining our staff team 6 years ago, and his passing is a great loss to us, and also to all the many other people who he has helped, supported, and inspired over the years he has worked at the Lighthouse Project. A familiar face that is sadly no-longer with us. He has always had a heart to serve and support people, and we miss him.

Volunteers: Our volunteer support has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Pre-pandemic we had 60+ regular volunteers who came into the centre on different days to support all the activities we run. During the pandemic our volunteer numbers dropped to approximately 12 people, see below, and post-pandemic whilst this number has increased, it is still less than half it was in early 2020. This reduction is currently having a noticeable impact upon our ability to recover and restore our services to pre-pandemic levels. But we are confident it will happen.

When the Coronavirus pandemic first hit in February 2020 we virtually lost the whole of our volunteer workforce overnight as the majority were told by the government to self-isolate due to age or health conditions, or because they lived with people who were classed as vulnerable to the virus, and as such they too should isolate themselves.

The impact of this was immediate and it required us to re-evaluate every aspect of our work to consider how it could continue, and in what form. We had to ensure that everything we did would remain safe to operate. This reduction in volunteers also meant that our core staff team were forced to carry the brunt of the workload in the absence of volunteer support, as mentioned above. So, there was some adaptation of job roles in response to the need to redesign all the services so we were able to continue to operate.

We managed to retain some of our ‘younger’ volunteers, whose health wasn’t as at risk as others, and we were able to recruit some new volunteers to help us form two small teams. We had one team who supported the Foodbank and one team who supported the Pantry, along with the staff team underpinning these and all other activities. This model helped us form ‘work bubbles’ to reduce risks and avoid cross contamination in work areas which worked well and was only changed as full restrictions were eased.

We maintained a volunteer WhatsApp group and used this throughout the year to keep in regular touch with all the volunteers who were isolating. This was a two-way thing allowing those who felt alone at home to keep in touch with us, and their fellow volunteers, as well as us being able to provide them with regular updates. Obviously at the time no-one foresaw how long the pandemic and restrictions would actually be in place, and no-one could have imagined restrictions would have lasted in excess of 2 years.

The volunteers valued this ongoing connection and some were keen to return to duties once they are allowed, whilst for others their life priorities changed which meant that they were not in a position to return to their former volunteering roles, and so they stepped back.

As a gesture of our appreciation for the team of volunteer who remained working with us through the pandemic, and beyond, into recovery, we arranged a ‘thank you’ meal at a local restaurant. This particular group of volunteers helped ensure we were able to remain open during the pandemic, and made sure our crisis support services could remain available for people to use. They definitely helped us keep feeding the many families that came to us in need.

Our Premises: Our building, and location in Middleton Shopping Centre, makes a significant contribution to the success of our work, it means we are centrally located, have ease of access in terms of transport and disabled facilities, and we also have good regular passing footfall (when not in the midst of a pandemic). We are accessible to the whole community. It’s a great place for a community hub.

During the pandemic, despite having less volunteers on hand, we were able to make some improvements to our facilities, which included improvements to ventilation, heating and deep cleaning some of the spaces that had been temporarily mothballed.

Our in-person footfall dropped by nearly half during the main years of the pandemic, but we have started to see a recovery of attendance as restrictions have eased. We are not yet back up to the pre-pandemic levels that we would like to see, but the trend is upward, and we can see a confidence returning for people to get back to out and doing things again, which is good.

Development of our Systems and facilities: this is an ongoing process where we review and adapt our infrastructure and admin systems to continually improve the way that we work.

We have enhanced our activity recording and general record keeping, which is making a difference, and providing us with better insights into the impact we are having giving us greater opportunity to tell a more complete story. These help give us the ability to develop our capacity, and improve how we serve and support, which makes us a more robust and stronger organisation.

Areas we have been working on include:

  1. Improved staff communication and management.
  2. Improvement of Visitor and Activity database (Lamplight) to record information about individual attendance, progression and engagement, as well as activity recording and summary analysis.
  3. Software updates for managing Pantry membership and payments, including the introduction of online and contactless payments.
  4. Stocktaking software for Pantry stock management improving our understanding of the financial benefit that Pantry membership receive.
  5. Specialist Debt management software and client engagement software.
  6. Promotion of our new 120 seat capacity conference, training and events room, which was completed just as the Covid-19 pandemic started. This space is a resource for the community which also allows us to run new social and leisure activities for larger groups and more events that need more space, e.g. tea-dances, armchair exercises, table tennis competitions, exhibitions, and larger group meetings.
  7. Updating and development of the Lighthouse Project website.

Our Community Impact

During the year we know that not as many people have been able to physically attend the Lighthouse Project to make use of the facilities. However, this doesn’t mean that we have remained static, or that our impact has been reduced. It may have changed but it hasn’t been reduced.

Our response to the pandemic has been to adapt, adjust and to continue to make ourselves available providing essential support and encouragement for people during these times of difficulty. We believe that we have been successful in this, and the presence of the Reaching Communities funding gave us complete stability during the uncertain times of the Covid-19 crisis. It allowed us to focus on what we needed to focus on, which was the adaption of our services and methods of support to ensure that we were still able to serve and be there for the Community. The funding ensured that we didn’t have to close down.

Our biggest and most noticeable impact in this particular year has definitely been through our two food projects. We have been able to maintain and expand both projects, and grow the amount of support that families and individuals have received from us during these difficult times. We have been able to make sure that families had food on their table, that they were able to feed their kids, and that they were also able to save money so they could meet other household bills/cost.

Collectively the two food projects have served and supported 3568 individuals (Adults and Children) from 936 different families, and provided the equivalent of 119,000 meals.

Our Lighthouse Money advice service has also seen significant growth in demand and it has been a life-line to many new people this year, with close to 100% increase in the number of clients being helped to face over £770,000 worth of debt. It has been able to support clients during very difficult and changing times.

With funding from different partners we have been able to grow the capacity of the team, adding new specialist debt and benefit staff, to help meet the demand which is greater than our current capacity can serve. We have already seen that demand increase, and as more and more of the Covid related support, benefits and employment support provisions get switched off demand is not likely to reduce. In addition, many predicted a significant post-covid increase in families struggling with their finances, this has now become true because of the added ‘energy’ and ‘cost of living’ crisis that the nation is experiencing.

Partnership Working: Our model of operation is built upon partnership and collaboration, so, in addition to our own work we also partner with and support other groups and organisations with their work, so for example we donated lots of toys to the Burnside Centre on Langley, and this helped them to start a ‘Toy Bank’ for local families, we also helped them and others with bulk food donations in support of their efforts to prepare meals for families and individuals. We also supported several breakfast and after school clubs providing children with meals.

There were many organisations, agencies and support groups that closed their doors during the pandemic, and where this happened some of that need and demand came to our door instead. Thankfully we were able to remain open during this time to offer continuity of support and encouragement for people where we could.

One example of this is Middleton DIAL, a local disability charity that rented some rooms from us to run their community wheelchair hire service. During the latter part of 2021 the ageing volunteers of the charity wanted to step down so they have been working towards closing the charity.

As part of this they asked the Lighthouse Project if we would continue their work under our own banner, which we started doing in October 2021. So, through this working relationship they have been able to wind down and we have been able to continue supporting the disabled community of Middleton with a vital wheelchair hire service.

Things we’ve learned

Person Centred / Whole person Approach

With regards things we have learned, some are new and some are a reinforcement of what we already believed to be true, one example being the value of a person centred approach when offering support. This is one of the founding principles upon which the work of the Lighthouse Project is built, and whilst we have always believed this to be true its value in recent years has been more widely recognised and adopted by other groups.

When at one time our model of co-location and joint working was not widely used it is now becoming the aspiration of many organisations. So, where the work of some charities and projects originally started with a single focus, e.g. Foodbanks or Pantry’s just providing people with food, it is now recognised that they need to provide additional ‘wrap around’ support to make sure that the people they help can be helped in a more whole person way.

A good example of this for ourselves is the three-stranded approach of the Foodbank, Pantry and LMA money advice service. Each has its own speciality, however by working together and cross referring they can help people move away from crisis and return to being more self-sufficient. For example, if someone is in crisis and ends up at the Foodbank, they will get food, but if their crisis is as a result of financial difficulties they can be supported by the debt or benefit adviser to improve their situation, and after a while we can move them from using the Foodbank into becoming a member of the Pantry, where they still save money but are on a progressive journey to recovery.

This is where the benefit of being whole person / person centred project comes into its own. Everyone who uses the Lighthouse Project comes in via a different doorway depending upon their need or circumstances, but once inside we don’t just help them in one way and then say ‘goodbye’, through relationship and active listening we pick up on, or become aware of other needs that they might have, and then we are able to link them up with the other services and activities within the centre so that they can progress in those areas of their life too.

For us it’s all about helping people to cope with or remove the burdens they are carrying alone, and giving them access to opportunities, and helping them to develop their own potential and find ways of solving problems or needs. We do stuff ‘with’ people, not ‘to’ them.

Whilst we by necessity have processes for our work, we are not process driven, we are people focussed, developing relationships and not just routines.

Relationship and Trust

We have found it is not always about the quality of service that you provide, although this is important, or whether you actually solve someone needs, the key thing that people are often looking for is the quality of welcome, relationship and trust that they can develop with you. If you are successful in these areas then the impact of the work is amplified quite significantly, even if all you did was make someone a cup of tea and listen to their needs.

Again one of our foundational aims is to provide a ‘safe place’ within the community where people know they will get a good welcome, will be listened to, and supported to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve. Time and time again we see people open up to our staff and volunteers in ways that they haven’t with other types of organisation. People are often guarded when they talk to agencies or council or housing associations, so their underlying needs may not be fully explained or revealed. Yet, when they feel safe and welcomed, they will then often ask for support or share a deeper need.

Change, and the need to adapt is not always a bad thing

The pandemic caused us all to look at what we did, and to evaluate how we could do it differently to meet the needs of the day. Several things that we have learnt from this this experience is that ‘change is not always a bad thing’, and that ‘adaptation can actually make a service better’.

During the core of the pandemic all of our services were changed and adapted, and some of the changes we made to how those services were run we have now retained as it actually made the service better. On the flip side, there are some aspects of the adaptations that helped us to be more efficient when we needed to, but now that the pandemic has eased we need to restore some of the things that were lost or removed from the service, e.g. restoration of face-to-face engagement.

We have learnt that we can be adaptable, and change is not to be feared. And that actually a fresh look at the way things are done can prove positive and illuminating. We have always been a reflective organisation and open to change, however the extent of change that the pandemic response required was fairly significant and involved all areas of work all at the same time. We successfully navigated this and made it work to our advantage, so we are no longer afraid of change, and realise how adaptable and flexible we can actually be when needs must.

Emerging needs – how the challenge of low income affects every area of life

We have always been an organisation that responds to need, this is one of the reasons that the parent charity Inspire Middleton was set up, to help improve people, places and organisations. So, responding to need is not new to us.

During the last few years however, we have seen one particular need begin to grow and expand to the extent that it now threatens the daily lives of a significant section of our community – that of low income, which then often leads to related indebtedness, and decline of health/mental health, and possibly destitution.

Low income and debt is both a campaign topic as well as a practical reality. We are not yet a campaigning organisation, but we may well be drawn into this advocating on behalf of people if the local economics don’t improve, and people’s lives become less sustainable.

We are clearly already helping people with the practical impact of low income, through the provision of access to food, and/or helping them with debts and benefits. But these needs are growing, along with the associated impact on mental and physical health and wellbeing. There were previously many needs in these areas already, but we can clearly see that the next few years are likely to expose much greater needs than those currently manifesting.

A solution needs to be found, and maybe it is actually many solutions rather than just one, of how to help people to increase their income, or reduce their expenditure. This is not just simple budgeting as many of the expenses people have are not within their ability to change, e.g. energy costs, rents, council tax, etc.

For us this just strengthens our resolve to remain whole person focussed and people centre, to strengthen the safe space, co-located services that we offer, and to build more bridges that people can walk across to thus improve their lives and gain access to opportunities.

Working Relationships with other organisations

Here is a selection of the organisations we have worked with during the year, or who have used the Lighthouse to provide services / activities for visitors.

  • Action Together – voluntary sector support
  • Alkrington & Junction GP surgeries,
  • All Saints & Martyrs C of E Church Langley,
  • Ashdown Phillips – MSC management
  • Better Health 4 Middleton – community activist group
  • BOC – Cardiac Care services
  • Church Action on Poverty – Lighthouse Pantry
  • Community Connectors – RMBC advisers
  • Community Money Advice – Lighthouse Money Advice
  • EnergyWorks – Drop-in support group
  • Fareshare – Food recycling – Lighthouse Pantry
  • FareshareGO – supermarket surplus
  • Getir – local food delivery organisation
  • Inspire Community – missional community
  • Job Centre Plus – Middleton,
  • Long Street Methodist Church,
  • Many local schools and community groups through the Foodbank referral agency network
  • Middleton DIAL, – disability charity
  • Middleton Photography Group – community camera club
  • Middleton Rotary – Community humanitarian group
  • Middleton Shopping Centre – promotions and support
  • Mills Hill Baptist Church,
  • Morrisons Supermarket Whitefield – Foodbank donations
  • Neighbourly – surplus food distribution
  • Positive Steps – careers service for young people,
  • RBH – Rochdale Boroughwide Housing,
  • Rochdale Council – Adult Care, Revenue & Benefits Service, Welfare team
  • Rochdale Healthwatch – independent voice on health for the community
  • Riverside Housing
  • Royal British Legion – Middleton
  • Soul Sisters – Women’s Domestic Abuse support group
  • Tesco Extra Middleton branch, and Tesco Express branches
  • The Hive, Drs Stockton & Thompson – Boarshaw Clough surgery
  • The National Lottery – Reaching Communities Fund
  • Trussell Trust – national Foodbank network charity
  • UK Online Centres (Good Things Foundation),
  • Veterans in Community – Veterans support group
  • Your Local Pantry – Pantry food network

The Future

With regards to the future, and the upcoming year, our biggest and most immediate challenges are:

  1. Re-engaging with new and former visitors letting them know that the Lighthouse Project is once again fully open and ready to serve, and that we are available to welcome and support them with their needs as we have always done.
  2. Recruitment of new volunteers to restore and build up our volunteer capacity to its pre-pandemic levels so that we can maintain our recovery and once again offer a full and varied selection of activities.
  3. To develop and expand our donor and funder base in support of our growth, and to help us in our ambition to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on short-term grant funding.

We have been encouraged that since progressively re-opening we have already seen a return of familiar faces and groups, which is a good start. There is still a lot who haven’t returned, so in some ways if feels like we are having to start afresh in building up our visitor family and reaching new people.

We don’t envisage any fundamental changes to how we operate in the coming year, although we are keen to re-establish all face-to-face services and renew/restore the relational basis of our work. We have learnt a number of lessons from having to adapt and rethink our methods and approach during Covid and about how some activities could be delivered in different and better ways.

Review and reflection will be an ongoing process especially as we see new needs and emerging issues that begin to show themselves in the community and wider society. Thankfully our structure and team dynamic allows us to be light of foot in adapting to change and meeting new needs. So this is something we have confidence in being able to do in the year to come.

We trust that this report inspires you as much as it has inspired us.