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A Carlisle-based community centre was among the beneficiaries of the Community Partnering Fund, a grant scheme delivered in partnership by Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Northern Powergrid and Leeds Community Foundation which allows grass roots organisations to bid for funding, which will help deliver benefits to their local communities.

Botcherby Community Centre, a former school that helps to educate and advise adults on the issues that affect their local neighbourhood, received funding to introduce educational workshops and training in Carlisle.

The funding benefited 46 residents through the introduction of a Level 2 Debt Awareness course, delivered by National Energy Action, and a Dementia Friends awareness session, delivered by trained colleagues from Northern Gas Networks. Funding also supported the centre to create a short film on the importance of recognising the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide.

The Community Partnering Fund is awarded to grassroots projects and third-sector organisations across the North of England that demonstrate an innovative approach to sustainability, encourage interest in STEM subjects and career opportunities, assist with hardship associated with fuel poverty, and those that promote knowledge of energy efficiency and home safety.

Following funding, Botcherby Community Centre has collaborated with four other community centres, a resident’s association, the local CVS, Riverside Housing and members of a learning disability group, helping to bring partners together surrounding common interests in their community. The centre provides a platform and safe place for people in need to acquire new skills and ways of thinking, covering topics of energy safety, money management issues and carbon monoxide.

Helen Fisher, Manager at Botcherby Community Centre comments on the success of the project:

“The funding we received from the Community Partnering Fund has been incredible and has had an immense impact on the local Carlisle community. The awareness sessions have been paramount in promoting energy safety and saving.

“There is no doubt that all those involved in the training sessions have learned something new and have been encouraged to make a difference in their own home, as well as passing on information about fuel poverty, energy saving and safety to their family and friends. We received excellent feedback from attendees, with many choosing to check energy comparison sites at home, resulting in home energy savings of over £400 in some cases.

“The Community Partnering Fund has allowed us to start working on a number of new opportunities, including a project with adults with learning disabilities to guide them on scripting, performing and producing a film about the dangers of carbon monoxide when camping.

“One volunteer with a community association in Carlisle has been a keen participant in the project, having attended and received a Level 2 accreditation in fuel debt advice, as well as becoming a willing Dementia Friend. She is now an advocate and provides advice and support for those struggling to pay their energy bills and shares safety advice with residents.

“It has been incredible to have support from companies like Northern Gas Networks and National Energy Action, who are well-known in the community and are passionate about providing support to communities such as ours. We have reached over 100 people since receiving the funding, with plenty of ideas in the pipeline – it is an extremely exciting time for Botcherby Community Centre.”

The latest round of funding available through the Community Partnering Fund is now open to applications, and charities and community projects such as Botcherby Community Centre are invited to come forward before midday on 15th October.

Applicants have the potential to receive a share of a grant distribution worth more than £100,000 across two phases. The first phase will award grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 from a £50,000 fund pot, with £50,000 previously awarded in the Spring).

Helen provides the following advice to those considering entering for the first time:

“The Community Partnering Fund provides fantastic opportunities for local groups. A good project is all about partnering with organisations that can provide expert advice and support to deliver more for communities and expand reach.

“To make the most of a fund like this it’s extremely important that you ask questions, through doing so we were able to involve the teams at Northern Gas Networks and National Energy Action into our projects, which elevated our results and helped to make a real difference to the lives of residents.

“Communities have a responsibility to ensure those residents that require additional support are made aware of any issues affecting their local area, particularly when it comes to safety.  It’s not just about the funding, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity for ongoing expert guidance and support.”

For more information, search for #CommunityPartneringFund on social media, or visit www.leedscf.org.uk/community-partnering-fund to apply.