Duffryn is and has been at the heart of community development in Duffryn (Tredegar Park ward) for over 10 years and has grown from a community led group of volunteers to a community led set of businesses with 37 employees and a turnover of approximately half a million pounds.
The name Duffryn Community Link defines an organisation that successfully makes connections to wider policy agendas for the improvement of local people’s quality of life; at the same time as securing the involvement and empowerment of local residents to be in control of the solutions to the needs, problems and opportunities experienced by the community. The local organisational structure is complex but thorough and comprehensive in its approach to community development; and wider influence. The partnership is informed by evidence from the community who run their own consultation events once every 2-3 years. Sub groups of the local partnership board bring this GIS evidence together with Newport, regional and Welsh strategic information and nationally collected local statistics to prioritise the outcomes in terms of work programme and a series of project plans which are co-ordinated by the Co-ordinator through the local partnership board for Communities First (as the main funder); who is also Director of Duffryn Community Link. Providentially, the partnership and ‘grant recipient’ for Communities First (Duffryn Community Link) share the same Chair – Mr Biagio Chiummo MBE. Duffryn Community Link is the grant recipient, secretariat, host employer and main delivery agent for the Communities First programme in the area. The Welsh Assembly Government recognises the Communities First Partnership, for which Duffryn Community Link is the secretariat, as ‘excellent’.
For monitoring and evaluation of work programmes, general support and ongoing building of partnership operations; the partnership meets every 6 weeks and comprises local people and organisational partners from local schools, police, fire service, Newport City Homes, local businesses, Friends of Tredegar House, Parent and Teacher’s Association, Job Centre Plus, Deprived Area Fund, Forest Children’s Centre, Community Centre, Duffryn Residents and Tenants Association and Duffryn Community Link. The staff team based at Duffryn Community Link, Forest (integrated) Children’s Centre, Duffryn Infant and Junior Schools,and Duffryn Community Centre are responsible for delivering the work programme on behalf of the partnership and adding value to assist partner working through their successful funding applications and a flexible approach to their working.
The ‘work programme’ gives the impression that the participants are all involved in a hard slog to achieve these outcomes, however, a great deal of fun is encouraged along the way; and our main aim to engage local people is through fun activities such as:
At a strategic level for the City of Newport, Duffryn Community Link seeks to improve quality and direction of services as well share good practice. Representatives of the organisation contribute to innovate practice and be creative with partnership working, particularly at the level of grant recipient bodies for the City, and at the Over Arching Partnership Board. Duffryn Community Link is a willing partner with the independence to work flexibly and draw in a diverse range of funding for the scope of needs of the community. It has contributed immensely to the harmonising of applications across areas and to the production of innovative documents to secure and promote and make easy and sense of joint working in complex projects.
Duffryn Community Link has an established track record and ability to deliver and facilitate others to deliver services at the heart of the community. All services and delivery contacts are assisted in their delivery at the local level. Duffryn Community Link administers and co-ordinates the partnership working with the end aim to improve quality of life for the residents of the area whether that be through advising and lobbying on ways of delivery of services from other organisations for the community or through identifying gaps in service, succeeding in funding applications and working in partnership to deliver the project. Its current focus of work is to collaborate with other areas to make effective use of facilities and groups.
Our close working with partners, involved in the partnership but also those outside, has resulted in a number of successes:
There are many projects within Duffryn Community Link’s portfolio that have contributed to these successes and the history of the organisation’s work shows that it has been instrumental in many of the major developments within the community and beyond, such as:
The Link has a 100% track record in 2009- 10 and so far in 2010-11 in successful funding applications; drawing in almost £600,000 per year for the benefit of the local community. The organisation benefits immensely from being independent and can act quickly and flexibly where partners may not be able.
This is further supported through social enterprise development within the community such as our childcare which operate to ensure that these services exist but that they prioritise particular social objectives – local voluntary and work experience opportunities; with associated training; and progressive employment pathways. For example Duffryn Community Link employs 55% of staff from the surrounding community. As we are building our capacity in this field we have recently recruited a Volunteer Support Worker (funded through Lloyds TSB Foundation) to develop work experience and volunteer ‘experience descriptions’ and policies and procedures; who also works closely with the Deprived Area Fund’s Community Ambassador (assisting 18 – 24 year olds claiming JSA and all economically inactive customers from the ward to improve their employment opportunities through access to further training, assisted job search activity and assistance in applying for employment) and our newest partners Job Centre Plus, who currently base a Family Support Worker in our local Integrated Children’s Centre.
In planning, Duffryn Community Link demonstrates a realistic approach to life and it is through this that we previously engaged Citizens Advice Bureau to assist people with getting their affairs in order prior to being able to think about moving forward personally. Many people for all areas, not just Communities First, experience compounding debt and issues with benefit claiming. This can be another element of the multi-faceted barriers and difficulties that an individual can face when trying to exit a cycle of poverty or low wages. Additionally, we are currently recruiting a Livelihoods Worker (funded by Oxfam Cymru to implement a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach methodology), volunteer peer mentor and Neuro Linguistic Programming consultant who can work with those most isolated by poverty to support their development of coping strategies and recognition of the positive assets within their lives. This will potentially help a number of families to move from the ‘surviving’ stage of life through to ‘coping’ and one day ‘adapting’. It is intended that they can then make use of a proposed outcome funded project with the Workers Education Association which provides opportunities for informal unaccredited learning; prior to moving onto volunteering, further training or employment as outlined above. Duffryn Community Link works for the whole community and is passionate about working with those most at risk from long term social exclusion. We see poverty as being the product of a range of influences on an individual which can only be addressed by a diverse array of services which place the individual in control of their own personal development. The journey that a person takes through all of these services and projects is assisted by the workers who pride themselves with their compassionate and empathetic approach, and extensive knowledge and access to support.
The model has worked on the very basic level of getting support for confidence, counselling, debt advice and basic skills before people can be in a life stage where they are in a position to learn. This has included getting support for families to spend time together where there may be difficulties with substance misuse, domestic abuse or mental health. Having this family time means that parents find value in what we do, learn to support their children emotionally as well as educationally, as well as finding their own path to better quality of life. Some of our parents who have had this support, and the support of a volunteer support worker have found their way back into employment. There are a wide range of opportunities available - from gaining employment experience by volunteering in the office, play group or bike club;- to boosting basic skills by playing pool, darts and scrabble. Some of the individuals have moved onto work experience with our business partners so it really is an organic progressive approach. From the BEST (employability) course that has now run for 3 years, on average 80% or more of the participants enter further learning or employment on exit from the course, and some continue to volunteer for us when they get chance. Getting learning at the heart of the programme can even be a non-financial exercise within some of the many groups within the community that Duffryn Community Link supports. For instance, the move to be out and about in the late evening talking to young people about what they would like to see provided in the evenings, was developed into the Friday night project which not only promotes the use of sport as a healthy and diversionary activity but combines this with a workshop for learning about good life skills and citizenship. The projects that are facilitated by the company regularly attract about 200 people per week from all ages and the organisation constantly strives to brand everything that we do.
In addition to strong partnership working; as a small community organisation there can be a great deal of dependencies. However, the risks in this are significantly mitigated by the operation of three social enterprises which aim to ensure that their part of the organisation becomes sustainable – these include the Bike Club (cycling and maintenance), the wrap around child care including care on a sessional basis, breakfast club and after school club and a vibrant holiday club. These local social enterprises, through Duffryn Community Link, sustain a wide range of projects recognised nationally for good practice. Projects we are currently involved with include but not exhaustively:
All projects have at their core, key messages and developmental opportunities for participants about health, wellbeing, learning, employment, self development, strategies for coping, community safety, environmental outcomes and, fundamentally, approaches for tackling injustice, child and family poverty and discriminatory practice.
For more information about the organisation, projects and the people involved in delivering this innovative model, including those behind the scenes please visit: www.duffryncomlink.org.uk