242017Feb

Charities transforming lives in the community

I want to tell the story of three charities that I met with last week, each of whom is helping transform lives in our community.

Michelle Donelan’s column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald [23 February 2017]

Since 1976, the Prince’s Trust has helped young people who are unemployed or struggling at school to gain the skills and confidence they need to improve their lives and develop their careers. Created by HRH Prince Charles, the Trust helps disadvantaged young people to get their lives on track. It supports 11 to 30 year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. Many of the young people are in or leaving care, facing issues such as homelessness or mental health problems, or have been in trouble with the law.

Last week I visited the Trust’s Trowbridge base to meet with the local team and many of the young people whose lives are being transformed thanks to their work. I saw in action the ‘Team Programme’ – a personal development and employability course for unemployed young people. The programme lasts 12 weeks and begins with team-building activities, including a week at a residential outdoor centre, followed by community social action projects. The young people from across Wiltshire receive two weeks work experience, along with help to build their CVs, to improve their job search and their job interview skills. The transformation in just three short months is remarkable and has helped over 300 Wiltshire young people since 2012. The charity plays a crucial role in communities and in March I am hosting an event for them in Parliament to celebrate their work.

Another local organisation that I visited last week was Turning Point’s Wiltshire Substance Misuse Centre, based in Chippenham, to meet with the dedicated staff, volunteers and service users. Turning Point is a social enterprise providing support for people who have complex needs, often including mental health issues, dependence on drugs and alcohol, homelessness, criminal backgrounds and many more. Their work is also valuable for those who do not realise they have a problem and need help. Drug and alcohol addiction can wreck lives, destroy families and impact on communities. The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate. It does not know if you’re white, or black, male or female, rich or poor or where you live. Addiction can happen to anyone. Turning Point help people to discover new possibilities and turn their lives around.

Thirdly, it was a pleasure to visit the Brunel Shed in Corsham to meet with some of the club members and talk to them about their new and exciting project to renovate two 200-year-old mine trollies. The Brunel Shed is a different take on the popular ‘Men’s Sheds; open to both men and women it is a larger (and better equipped) version of the typical garden shed. It is an opportunity to socialise over tea or coffee, work on projects, share expertise, tools and resources. The members have a great time utilising their existing skills and learning more. It is a fantastic project for helping tackle loneliness and social exclusion and the club are looking to open for longer hours, expand their premises and acquire more tools and equipment.

The charity sector has a long and proud history of supporting individuals and communities – locally, nationally and internationally. These are just examples of three that I visited last week but each is playing a valuable role in supporting groups that it is often hard for ‘traditional’ services to engage with. To each, keep up the great work.

Also published online at http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/