ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE: Achievements April 2018 – March 2019
Inspire Middleton is a community development charity; 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.
We run several community projects and activities through which the charities objectives are advanced: these include, the Lighthouse Project, our drop-in style community centre, Middleton Central Foodbank, Lighthouse Money Advice, and the Lighthouse Pantry all operating out of leased premises on the second floor of Middleton Shopping Centre right in the heart of Middleton town centre. We moved into Middleton Shopping Centre in December 2016, and 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 specific charitable objectives, and as a community hub it is used as a means of advancing many of our other charitable aims. Middleton Central Foodbank is based in the Lighthouse and is a project we run as part of the national Trussell Trust network and in partnership with local churches to help tackle local poverty and hardship. The Lighthouse Pantry and Lighthouse Money Advice service are new projects started during the last year.
The Lighthouse Project has been running for over 9 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 this time our overall visitor footfall has exceeded 200,000 visits since the Lighthouse Project first opened.
Generally speaking, we are seeing our annual footfall progressively increase year-on-year as we reach out and support more and more people. Our move into Middleton Shopping Centre has helped this and last year we saw a 20% increase in footfall numbers, our average footfall is now just above 3000 visits per month which equates to approximately 37,000 visits per year.
We reached over 2100 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:
- Free internet access
- Computer and internet skills courses,
- Online basics, Online plus & learn my way,
- Support for job hunting and personal development.
- Refreshment area and soft seating
- Social groups and activities
- Meeting spaces, social interaction, networking, listening, support & encouragement.
Weekly – Learning, advice, social groups and activities:
- Job hunting support,
- Appointments for CV creation and updates
- ‘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
- Lighthouse Money advice – appointments for personal debt advice
- Lighthouse Pantry a membership food club
- Talk English – pre-ESOL classes
- Card making classes and craft,
- Knit and natter group,
- Art group and painting sessions,
- Men’s Shed & Ladies Workshop
- 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
- Learn Conversational Spanish classes,
- 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
- Living Well taking control – sessions
- Manchester Credit union services
- RMBC revenue & benefits advice
- Veterans in the Community weekly drop-in sessions
- Bi-annual fundraising craft fairs
- Bi-annual ‘Health &Community Services’ exhibition
- 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;
- Employment and Skills
- Social interests and activities
- Health, mental health and wellbeing
- Food and Families (inc. Foodbank)
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 271 people to start a Learn My Way Online Basics course, set up email accounts or start using the internet. In a visitor survey, carried out in Autumn 2018, 48% of respondents indicate we had helped them to improve their computer skills.
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.
During the year we are also aware that we played a key role in helping over 100+ people get back into work by improving their skills and opportunities and creating new CVs for them.
We helped over 160+ people with advice or to update an existing, or create an entirely new CV, which are now essential for applying for jobs. This type of support and demand for employability support has remained buoyant.
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. 22,000 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. In our Autumn visitor survey 67% of respondents reported they had gained at least one new skill from their visits to the Lighthouse.
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 continued to develop and increased the number and type of social interest groups and activities that we offer at the Lighthouse Project. Our focus over recent years has shifted slightly away from just skills impartation and training and leaning more towards helping people with building relationships and connections through social interest, hobbies and activity sessions. We recognise that social interaction play a significant part in helping people to grow, develop or recover, and that they are important 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, additional art and painting classes, Men’s Shed and Ladies workshop, digital photography group, cooking taster sessions, IT & social media taster sessions, children’s play activities, a walking group, table tennis drop-in, and our meet-up social group.
We recorded over 244 new people attending at least one of our social/interest activity groups in addition to our regular visitors, and collectively they visited over 3800 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. In our autumn visitor survey 87% of respondents said they have made new friends or contacts from coming to the Lighthouse, and 29% had taken up a new hobby or interest.
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 159 people who were specifically interested in health related activities or training.
Family & Food, (inc foodbank)
Food – Middleton Central Foodbank
Middleton Central Foodbank has now been running for just under five 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 3127 individuals with emergency food parcels (1855 adults and 1272 children) which is an increase 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 23.1 tonnes of food during the year and gave away 24 tonnes 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 2 tonnes of food in stock at any one time to ensure that we have enough variety and quantity to support several foodbank sessions. During the year that have been times when food stocks get low and we have had to buy-in certain food items to ensure we can provide complete food parcels.
We are 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 over 8 tonnes of food in the last year, which is significant proportion 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.
Food – Lighthouse Pantry (new project)
In December 2018 we opened the doors of a new membership based food club intended to support families and individuals with their weekly food costs. For a weekly membership fee of £3.50 families can use the Pantry to obtain a selection of food items and free fruit and veg produce typically worth £20-25 in retail value.
The project has already proven popular with families who could save up to £1400 a year on their annual food costs, with the added benefit that this money can be used to pay other household bills that they would normally struggle to meet.
Take up of membership have gone quickly and we are already operating a waiting list before we can add new members.
The Pantry has many facets to it, firstly it is intended to help stop struggling families from moving into crisis and needing the support of other services, such as the foodbank. For those who are already in crisis the Pantry acts as a stepping stone out of crisis and back towards self-management. As the Pantry makes use of supermarket surplus food it is also helping to reduce food waste and put usable food into the hands of those who most need it.
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 many regular dads and children on our books and a typical session can have between 10-20 attendees. Activities include board games, crafts, table tennis and virtual sports.
Family – Lighthouse Money Advice (new project)
Many people in our community experience high levels of personal debt or financial problems due to low income or other personal circumstances which are not necessarily due to poor budgeting or money management. Through our work with the Foodbank we were aware of a real shortage of local and accessible debt advice services in our area.
In response we set up a new free-to-use debt advice service called Lighthouse Money Advice which is part of the national ‘Community Money Advice’ network.
This project started in October 2018 and has already supported 52 clients who are collectively facing debts of over £300,000. From these people we have managed to secure debt relief orders (DRO’s) to the tune of over £60,000 with many more debts tackled through agreed debt management plans.
Each person, or family, helped feels so much relief when they get support and start making progress, and they find greater peace and freedom because of the support they receive.
In our locality there is a massive under-provision of face-to-face debt services in the order of 6000%, this means that from demand of just under 2000 requests for support there was only capacity for 32, according to research carried out by the government Money Advice Service. This was one of the driving factors for us setting up our service and our aspirations to see it grow and expand even more in order to help alleviate some of this need.
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 9 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 2,800, 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 over £90,000 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
- 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
- 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,
- Rochdale Boroughwide Housing,
- Middleton Photography Group,
- Livingwell (Big Life Group) – Health trainers
- Fareshare – Food recycling – Lighthouse Pantry
- Church Action on Poverty – Lighthouse Pantry
- Community Money Advice – Lighthouse Money Advice
- 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
- Tesco Extra Middleton branch
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 carried out updated consultations with visitors, partner organisations and the general community which was undertaken in the Autumn of 2018. This has been helpful to us in evaluating our work and activities since our last evaluation in 2015. This is helping us to celebrate our successes and report on our progressions and achievements. This is also helping us formulate our new project plans for 2019-2021 and our new funding application to the National Lottery Community Fund.
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 have been working on 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 party’s needs. The shopping centre management team have been 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 negotiations. We are hoping to secure a new lease arrangement that will keep us in our current premises and take us beyond December 2019.
Within the premises there is some significant development and alteration work to carry out to complete the changes that we want to achieve 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.
At the end of the year we had submitted a major re-funding application to the National Lottery Community Fund, and this was to help cover our core running costs from July 2019-June 2022 after the end of our current Reaching Communities funding which ends in June 2019.
Note: Subsequent to the end of the financial year that this report covers we received confirmation that our Lottery application was approved and we were awarded £477k of funding over 3-years from July 2019 – June 2022. This is a significant award and will allow us to grow and consolidate our work during the next phase of operation.