Achievements: April 2017 – March 2018

ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE: Achievements April 2017 – March 2018

We describe the work of Inspire Middleton as being like a ‘plant pot’. A plant pot is something that helps other things to grow, and so we operate a number of projects and activities through which the charities objectives are promoted and advanced: these include, the Lighthouse Project our drop-in style community centre, and the Middleton Central Foodbank. Both operate out of our leased premises on the second floor of Middleton Shopping Centre right in the heart of Middleton town centre.

We moved from the Warwick Mill where we had been based for six years to the Cromer Mill in June 2016, and then from there to Middleton Shopping Centre in December 2016. Our current lease for the shopping centre space is for three years running between December 2016 – December 2019.

The Lighthouse Project is one of our direct charitable objectives, and it is used as a means of advancing many of our other aims, and Middleton Central Foodbank is a project we run in partnership with local churches to help tackle local poverty and hardship.

Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse Project has now been running for over 8 years since it opened in 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 the effective support of people in need.

The centre opens 5 days a week (9.30am – 4.30pm), with occasional evening and Saturday opening, and in March 2018 our overall visitor footfall exceeded 180,000 visits since the Lighthouse Project first opened.

Generally speaking we are seeing our annual footfall increase year-on-year as we reach out and support more and more people. Our move into Middleton Shopping Centre saw a reversal of the short-term drop we experienced during our time at the Cromer Mill and since then our weekly footfall has been steadily increasing. At the end of the year (March 2018) our average footfall was close to 2660 visits per month which would equate to approximately 32,000 visits per year.

We reached over 1800 individual new people in the last year, which is very encouraging, and cumulatively this translates into many thousands of individual visitors that we have helped over the time that we have been running the Lighthouse Project.

As a community hub the Lighthouse Project is a place of activity and support for local people, and we provide a varied menu of activities during the year, such as the ones listed below. We regularly review our existing programme and we are always willing to develop new activities in response to visitor and beneficiary feedback to ensure that we continue filling gaps in services and are meeting the expressed needs of beneficiaries and the community.

Our activities typical include:

Daily –

  • Computer and internet skills courses,
  • Online basics, Online plus & learn my way,
  • Free internet access
  • Support for job hunting and personal development.
  • Meeting spaces, social interaction, refreshments, networking, listening, support & encouragement.

Weekly –

  • Job Hunting Academy – Work Club,
  • ‘Find a Job’ 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,
  • Men’s Shed
  • Best Foot forward walking group
  • Social groups, quizzes, scrabble, chess and board games,
  • Middleton DIAL disability aids,
  • Middleton Photography group,
  • Meet up social and activity group,
  • Middleton carers group,
  • Music Matters – learning to play musical instruments
  • Talk English – pre-ESOL classes
  • Introduction to Film making course (now completed)
  • 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
  • Bi-annual fundraising craft fairs
  • Middleton Community Voice/Better Health 4 Middleton – community representatives and groups

How we categorise our work

Because we help and support people in many different ways we group our work into four broad categories covering;

  1. Employment and Skills
  2. Social interests and activities
  3. Health, mental health and wellbeing
  4. Families and Food (inc Foodbank & cooking)

Employment and Skills

The Lighthouse Project is a registered UK online centre that is part of a national network of over 400 centres, run by the Good Things Foundation, who help tackle digital exclusion by providing free internet access and training for beginners to learn about computers, online skills, health, financial tools, and improved communication.

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 significant part 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 have helped over 350 people to start a Learn My Way Online Basics course, set up email accounts or start using the internet.

Through our UK online centre membership we are a City & Guilds assessment centre for the City & Guilds EL3 module for Online Basics, and during the year we offered assessments for many new learners for whom it 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 also have little or no computer skills, which significantly reduces their ability to find work especially when recent research indicates that over 50% of all jobs are now only advertised online.

We estimate that about 2/3rds of our visitors also use our computers to look for work or apply for jobs (which equates to 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. During the year we are also aware that we played a key role in helping over 50+ people get back into work by improving their skills and opportunities and creating new CVs for them.

We helped approximately 300+ people through the year to update an existing, or create an entirely new CV, which are now essential for applying for jobs. This type of support has been at this level for the last few years as demand for employability support has remained buoyant.

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 the last few years that we have shifted our focus slightly towards building more relationships and connections through social interest, hobbies and activity sessions, over and above just providing training courses. We recognise that social interaction also plays a significant part in helping people to grow, develop or recover, and that they are important to us and to 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 our meet-up social group.

We recorded over 260 new people attending at least one of our social/interest activity groups in addition to our regular visitors, and collectively they visited over 3100 times. It is widely understood that there are many isolated people in our communities and we are seeking to reach out to new people in order to reduce their isolation and to build up their social connections.

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. During the year we reached about 128 people who were specifically interested in health related activities or training.

Family & Food, (inc foodbank & cooking)

Families – Who let the dads out

We continued to run our ‘who let the dads out’ sessions which is a monthly playgroup intended 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 have about 65 dads and children on our books and a typical session can have between 15-30 attendees. In the past we have occasionally adapted our regular card making activities to hold childrens’ sessions during school holiday periods.

Food – Cooking

Historically we have run a number of cooking based social groups designed to help people learn basic cooking skills and how to cook for less. This last year has seen us develop and revamp our kitchen and coffee bar facilities thanks to donations from Middleton Shopping Centres’ Christmas Grotto’s. At the time covered by this report the kitchen was still being refurbished, but following this our plans are  to re-introduce our ‘cook and taste’ sessions and offer cooking classes to users of the foodbank and our upcoming Lighthouse Pantry project.

Food – Middleton Central Foodbank

Middleton Central Foodbank has now been running for just under four years since it opened to the public in July 2014. It is registered with the Trussell Trust, which is a Christian based national foodbank network.

This project was started through collaboration between Inspire Middleton and several local churches who wanted to set up and run a ‘Trussell Trust foodbank franchise’ in order to meet the needs of people experiencing food poverty in Middleton and the surrounding areas. We still retain links with the churches and many of our volunteers, although not all, come from our church connections. The foodbank is co-located within the Lighthouse Project and it runs as an additional service to our wider work.

During the year up to the end of March 2018 the foodbank supported 2963 individuals with emergency food parcels (1887 adults and 1076 children) which is an staggering increase of 86% over the previous year.  The main causes of crisis being reported to the foodbank are, benefit delays or changes, debt and low income. We are in an area where Universal Credit is being rolled out and this has probably contributed to the increase in people needing support.

We received donations of 22.8 tonnes of food during the year and gave away 22.5 tonnes (54% 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. We typically find we have about 3 tonnes of food in stock at any one time to ensure that we have enough variety and quantity to support several foodbank sessions. When stocks get low we have had to buy-in certain food items to ensure we can provide complete food parcels, as well as raising awareness of the need for more donations through our social media outlets.

We are also grateful to the people of Middleton who are always very generous to us, and especially to those who choose to donate via our regular Tesco collection point through which we have collected 9.6 tonnes of food in the last year, which is 36% of all the food donations we received.

In addition to the permanent collection point in Tesco we also arrange three-days of food collections in the town centre store twice a year, one of these is arranged as part of a national campaign of foodbank collections (November/December) and the other is arranged locally with the store (June/July). The Tesco staff are always supportive of our work and we want to commend their efforts in doing so.

The foodbank works in conjunction with over 50 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, and they help us to reach the people who most need support.

Volunteers

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 8 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, of different ages, backgrounds, and experience. Some come for short periods of time, whilst others have been with us for longer periods as they believe in, and support, our cause.

During the last year our volunteer visits have been over 2,600, 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 £89,000 if valued at an average cost of £11.20/hr.

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.

  • UK Online Centres (Good Things Foundation),
  • Job Centre Plus – Middleton,
  • Rochdale MBC – Employment & Skills, Community Champions, Economic affairs – Talk English,
  • Link4Life
  • Royal British Legion – Middleton
  • Veterans in Community
  • RMBC Housing Benefits team,
  • Manchester Credit Union
  • Living Well Taking Control
  • Positive Steps – careers service for young people,
  • Rochdale and District Mind – mental health support and training
  • Middleton Community Voice/Better Health 4 Middleton – community activist group
  • Alkrington & Junction GP surgeries,
  • Drs Stockton & Thompson – Boarshaw Clough surgery
  • 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
  • RBH Housing,
  • Middleton Photography Group,
  • Pennine Acute – Healthy weights team
  • Livingwell (Big Life Group) – Health trainers
  • Fareshare – Food recycling – Lighthouse Pantry (in preparation)
  • Church Action on Poverty – Lighthouse Pantry (in preparation)
  • Community Money Advice – Lighthouse Money Advice (in preparation)
  • Middleton Shopping Centre – promotions and support
  • Middleton Slimming World – fundraising
  • Many local schools and community groups through the Foodbank referral agency network
  • Ashdown Phillips – MSC management
  • Middleton Town Team – town centre activities
  • Virgin Money – volunteers
  • Xvarian College – work placements
  • Oldham College – learner placements

Plans for the Future

We plan to continue building and developing our work, and strengthening the activities that we offer with the aim of advancing our charity objectives and meeting the unmet needs of local people within the community. By doing so we believe that, we can continue to increase our visitor numbers, recruit more volunteers, help more people to advance in their lives, and to improve our impact.

We are planning to carry out updated consultations with visitors, partner organisations and the general community in preparation for us to undertake a second major evaluation of our work and activities during the latter part of 2018. This will allow us to celebrate our successes and report on our progressions and achievements since our 2015 evaluation.

We want to consider and explore different ways of raising funds and finances for the charity to help improve our long-term sustainability alongside our ongoing grant funding applications. We also want to explore ways of building up a regular supporter base that will strengthen us and help us to encourage new donor relationships through a Lighthouse partnership scheme.

We will look at our long-term premises options. The premises we now occupy in Middleton Shopping Centre are ideal for our needs, and they are readily accessible, which has helped us to recover visitor numbers from our previous two moves.

Our current lease is for a 3 year period between Dec 2016 until Dec 2019, so we have started a dialogue with the shopping centre owners and their management team with the aim of negotiating a longer arrangement that would suit both parties needs. The shopping centre management team are 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 in our future negotiations. Steve Coogan our Lighthouse Patron has also been involved in some of the initial conversations with the owners to show his direct support, and to hopefully add weight to our cause.

Within the premises there is still a reasonable amount of alteration work to carry out to fully complete the refurbishments that we want in order to make the space ready for future growth. Everyone who visits the Lighthouse to look round is usually very impressed by the facilities that we have, and once things have been completed we will definitely have a strong base from which to grow.