ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE: April 2016 – March 2017
The charities work is delivered primarily through the activities of the Lighthouse Project our drop-in community centre/hub, and the Middleton Central Foodbank which are now based on the second floor of Middleton Shopping Centre which is right in the middle of Middleton town centre.
During the last 12 months covered by this report we have relocated our project twice due to our landlords redevelopment plans for the buildings we were occupying. We moved from the Warwick Mill to the Cromer Mill in June 2016, and then from there to Middleton Shopping Centre in December 2016. We are now based in the shopping centre on a three year lease.
The Lighthouse Project is itself one of our charitable objectives, and Middleton Central Foodbank is run in partnership with several local churches and it is a part of the national Trussell Trust network.
The Lighthouse Project has now been open and running for over 7 years, since June 2010, and it has become an established, well regarded, and highly successful community project in the town, with a reputation throughout the borough for good work and effective support of people in need.
The centre opens 5 days a week (9.30am – 4.30pm), with occasional evening and Saturday opening. In March 2017 our visitor footfall had exceeded 150,000 visits since the Lighthouse Project first opened. Generally speaking we have seen the annual footfall increase year-on-year as we have reached out and supported more and more people, however in this last year, primarily due to our relocation challenges we did see a slight drop in attendance by about 20% whilst we were located at the Cromer Mill which was slightly out-of-town. Thankfully our move into Middleton Shopping Centre saw complete reversal of this and an additional increase such that our weekly footfall has been increasing again over previous months. At the end of the year (March 2017) our average footfall was close to 2600 visits per month which would equate to approximately 31,200 per year.
Cumulatively this translates into many thousands of individual visitors we have helped over the years that the Lighthouse has been running. This is a great and encouraging.
The Lighthouse Project is a centre of activity and a hub for local people, which provides a varied programme of activities during the year. We regularly review our existing activities and develop new ones, in response to visitor and beneficiary feedback to ensure that we continue meeting the expressed needs of beneficiaries and the community.
Our typical activities include:
- Computer and internet skills courses,
- Online basics, Online plus & learn my way,
- Free internet access
- Support for job hunting and personal development.
- Social lounge, interaction, networking, listening, support & encouragement.
- Job Hunting Academy – Work Club,
- Universal Jobmatch training and how to find work online,
- Beyond basics (Word & Excel) courses.
- Other ad hoc training courses we run ourselves or with other organisations.
- Middleton Central Foodbank
- Tablets and Smartphones drop-in
- Talk English – pre-ESOL classes
Weekly social groups and activities including:
- Card making classes and craft,
- Knit and natter group,
- Art group and painting sessions,
- Best Foot forward walking group
- Better together social group, scrabble, chess and board games,
- Middleton DIAL disability aids,
- Middleton Photography group,
- Meet up social and activity group
- Music Matters – learning to play musical instruments
- Talk English – pre-ESOL classes
- Introduction to Film making course
- Who let the dads out play group (monthly), etc.
Regular/weekly drop-in/advice sessions and programmed health training Including;
- Positive Steps careers advice for young people,
- Mind social group and activities
- RVS Good Neighbours project
- Living Well taking control – sessions
- Manchester Credit union services
- RMBC revenue & benefits advice
- HeartStart CPR training sessions – ad hoc
- Pennine Acute – Healthy weights
- Veterans in the Community weekly drop-in sessions
- Middleton Community Voice – community representatives and groups
How we categorise our work
We help and support people in many diverse and different ways which we group into four broad categories covering;
- Employment and Skills
- Social interests and activities
- Health, mental health and wellbeing
- Families and Food (inc Foodbank & cooking)
Employment and Skills
The Lighthouse Project is a registered UK online centre which is a national network of over 400 centres who help tackle digital exclusion by providing free internet access and training for beginners to learn about computers and online skills.
Our UK online centre activities are aimed at improving digital skills and tackling digital exclusion. The provision of basic online and computing skills remains a mainstay of our work in helping tackle the digital exclusion experienced by over 24% of people in the UK (8 million+). This work is always in high demand. During the year we helped over 300 people to start the Learn My Way Online Basics course, set up email accounts and start using the internet.
Through our UK online centre membership we are a City & Guilds assessment centre and during the year we offered assessments for the City & Guilds EL3 module for Online Basics, for many this was their first formal qualification since leaving school.
Our Employability work is complemented by our UK online centre work, i.e. providing people with core internet and computer skills which directly helps and supports unemployed people in Middleton move closer to the workplace. Many of those looking for work have little or no computer skills which significantly reduces their ability to find work as recent surveys show that over 50% of all jobs are now only advertised online. We estimate about 2/3rds of our visitors use our computers to look for work or apply for jobs (this was approx. 20,000 visits last year) so this is a key resource in helping people improve their chances of getting back into employment. Many of our visitors are signposted from Middleton Job centre so they can receive digital and employability skills support.
We run weekly Work Club activities through the year including our own motivational and employability course called the Job Hunting Academy. A course delivering 4 sessions on a rolling 4-weekly cycle throughout the year..
We help approximately 20+ people a week with CV’s which are now essential for applying for jobs, this involves help to update existing, or create entirely new CV’s; which amounts to between 750-1000 CV’s being created or updated during the year. This support has been at this level for the last few years as the provision of employability support from other organisations has diminished.
We maintained our relationship with several Rochdale MBC’s teams including the economic affairs Skills & Work team through our work club activities, and membership of the Skills & Work Forum, which help support the councils’ objective of improving the skills of the Borough’s residents.
Social Interests & Activities
We increased the number and type of social interest groups and activities that we offer at the Lighthouse Project. We have noticed over this last year that we have shifted our focus slightly towards building more relationships and connections through social interest, hobbies and activity sessions, over and above just training courses, as these play a significant part in helping people to grow, develop or recover, and they are important to us and the visitors that we support.
During the year we ran or hosted the following range of weekly and ad hoc social and leisure activities, some of which have turned into regular new groups; Craft and card making classes, a Knit and natter group, art and painting classes, digital photography group, cooking taster sessions, IT & social media taster sessions, children’s play activities, a walking group, tablet and smartphone group, and a new meet-up social group.
Health, Mental Health and Wellbeing
We offered a variety of activities that support the improvement of individual health, mental health and wellbeing. Some of this was through our own programmes of training and developmental activities; and also by hosting other groups who offered health and wellbeing related activities within the Lighthouse Project Centre.
Family & Food, (inc foodbank & cooking)
We continued to run our ‘who let the dads out’ play group which is a monthly session to help dads, granddads or male carers to spend time playing with their children/toddlers. This has proved a successful alternative to going to other expensive play centres where the children go off and leave their dads sat watching them at a distance. The group encourages interactive play and enjoyment.
We also adapt our card making activities to hold childrens sessions during school holiday periods.
Food – Cooking
We also ran a number of cooking based social groups designed to help people learn basic cooking skills and how to cook for less. These were done under the banners of ‘More food less waste’, and ‘Eat well for less’, which are both national initiatives around improving cooking skills & budgeting.
Food – Middleton Central Foodbank
In March 2014 we started working on the set-up of our foodbank under the name – Middleton Central Foodbank which is registered with Trussell Trust a national Christian foodbank network.
This project came about through collaboration between Inspire Middleton and several local churches who wanted to set up and run a ‘Trussell Trust foodbank franchise’ to meet the needs of people experiencing food poverty in Middleton and the surrounding areas. The foodbank is co-located within the Lighthouse Project and runs as an additional service to its wider work. The foodbank first opened to the public at the end of July 2014.
During the year up to the end of March 2017 we supported 1590 individuals with emergency food parcels (1060 adults and 530 children) which is an increase of 23% over the previous year.
We received donations of 11.7 tonnes of food during the year and gave away 14.6 tonnes (25% increase over last year) to support needy families and individuals in the area who were experiencing food poverty or food crisis. In addition to this we continued to support some local school breakfast clubs by providing cereals and other items to help them provide breakfast to needy children.
The foodbank works in conjunction with over 51 other local organisations who act as referral agencies and hold vouchers for distribution to people in need. These organisations are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the foodbank within the community.
Volunteers are essential to our work and without them we would not be able to provide the levels of service and support that we have achieved over the last 6 years.
We continued to support and work with a bank of 60+ regular volunteers who help us to run the Lighthouse Project activities on a daily basis, and the foodbank. We have a wide mix of volunteers, some who come for short periods of time and others who have been with us for a longer period.
Over the last 3 years our volunteer visits have been over 10,000, and our volunteers are of different ages and backgrounds and this helps us to have a good mix of abilities and experience which we can use to share with visitors. Without our volunteers we would not be able to do the range and scale of work that we have achieved thus far, and we are very grateful for their invaluable contribution.
We have estimated that the value of in-kind work that our volunteers provide during the year is in the order of £110,000 if valued at an average cost of £11.20/hr.
Working Relationships with other organisations
Here are some of the organisations we have worked with during the year, or who have used the Lighthouse to provide services / activities for visitors.
- UK Online Centres (Tinder Foundation),
- Job Centre Plus – Middleton,
- Rochdale MBC – Employment & Skills, Community Champions, Economic affairs – Talk English,
- Veterans in Community
- RMBC Housing Benefits team,
- Manchester Credit Union
- Hopwood Hall College,
- Living Well Taking Control
- Positive Steps – careers service for young people,
- Pennine Care – Psychological Therapies team, Health Trainers, Community Mental Health Team,
- Middleton Community Voice – community activist group
- Alkrington & Junction GP surgeries,
- Middleton DIAL, – disability charity
- Upper Room Christian Fellowship,
- Mills Hill Baptist Church,
- All Saints & Martyrs C of E Church Langley,
- Long Street Methodist Church,
- Standguide, – employability training
- Heart Start – British Heart Foundation volunteers,
- RBH Housing,
- Middleton Photography Group,
- Pennine Acute – Healthy weights team
- Pathsways(Big Life Group) – recovery Service
- Livingwell (Big Life Group) – Health trainers
Plans for the Future
We continue to build and develop our work and the activities that we offer as opportunity arises, with the aim of meeting the needs of local people and the community. This will help us to increase our volunteer and visitor numbers and improve our impact.
We will continue to hold consultations with visors, partner organisations and the general community in preparation for carrying out a formal evaluation of our work and activities during the coming year so that we can build on what we have achieved.
We will be exploring new ways of raising funds and finances to help us build up our supporter base and improve our sustainability. We will also begin building new donor relationships through our a Lighthouse Keeper partnership scheme.
The premises that we now occupy in Middleton Shopping Centre are ideal for our needs and have helped up to recover visitor numbers and build again from a firm foundation. There is still a significant amount of alteration work to carry out to make the premises fit for purpose but hopefully once this has been completed we will have a strong base from which to operate.
The lease we have is only for a 3 year period however this was preferable to having to significantly downsize or close the work. We are planning to continue dialogue with the centre owners and management team to try and negotiate a longer arrangement that would suit both parties needs. The shopping centre management team are very supportive of the work of the Lighthouse Project and they see the value of us being a part of their community offer, so we are hoping that this will stand us in good stead going forwards.