Youth groups, care organisations and other voluntary sector bodies are among the institutions that have directly benefited from the council’s popular and productive Community Fund.
Set up in 2016 and following recommendations made by the Opportunity and Fairness Commission, the fund is a three-year programme offering strategic support for the borough’s voluntary sector.
Its focus is on recognising the need to provide a better quality of life for residents and to harness the social value of the voluntary sector as equal partners, delivering positive and beneficial outcomes to those residents and the communities in which they live.
The £6m programme is backing 35 organisations and projects – varying in scale from Citizens Advice Croydon, with £780,000 of support, to the Sir Philip Game Centre in Addiscombe, with funding of about £15,000 over three years – with the aim of driving fairness and equality of opportunity for communities, people and places by working toward a set of targets focusing on early prevention and intervention:
• To support vibrant, responsible and connected communities.
• To provide a connected borough in which nobody feels isolated.
• To support residents toward better times.
• To ensure that no child is left behind.
• To find homes for all.
Among the catalogue of positive outcomes achieved by the Community Fund during its first year are the following examples.
Sonia’s is a story that illustrates the impact that health and well-being services can have on preventing ill health, isolation and depression. She lives in Thornton Heath and, at 61, is one of the youngest in the group of people that attend the Asian Resource Centre Croydon dance movement classes. Three years ago, her husband passed away and, shortly after that, her son had to undergo a triple bypass. The great bunch of people that she met at the ARCC, in London Road, were instrumental in getting her through a very difficult time.
The Carers Support Partnership provides an exceptional hub for services aimed at making life easier for those who care for others. Loneliness and isolation, too common among carers, have a profound effect on health and well-being. The centre provides a range of social activities including Pilates, a book club, carers’ choir, dancing, massage and carers’ café. Almost 34,000 carers have been supported over the course of the fund’s first year.
Youth charity Reaching Higher, based in South Norwood, provides a coaching environment in which young people can engage in a wide range of activities. Those activities help to build self-esteem and to develop problem-solving, communication, team-working and leadership skills. The activities include performing arts (dance, music, drama); creative arts (fashion, design, art); sports (with a particular emphasis on football); media (film, photography, graphic design); life skills (cooking, financial management, career support); and one-to-one mentoring.
“In 2015, the Croydon Opportunity and Fairness Commission gathered views from across the borough to understand the issues and challenges faced by the people of Croydon in order to build and create a fairer and better place for everyone.
“The commission advocated for strong neighbourhoods where citizen activism and participation in the local community, faith and sports groups are well-embedded, and healthier, vibrant communities are reinforced.
“The council was asked to show leadership in this area by promoting community involvement, supporting asset-based development approaches and putting more power in the hands of local people.
“I know, through my experience of working with the voluntary sector and visits to projects and organisations in the Community Fund how impressive their work is – often working with few resources. The Community Fund has marked a shift away from a grant-making approach to developing a more equal partnership with the voluntary sector – working together to enable greater independence, self-reliance and resilience.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice