Hartlepool has one of the UK’s highest unemployment rates, but new approaches aim to buoy local wealth.
Sacha Bedding, manager of the Annexe community centre. Photo: Gary Calton
The Annexe, a community hub, has become the centre for resident-led regeneration of the Dyke House area of Hartlepool, which has the highest number of workless households in the country. Sacha Bedding, manager of the Wharton Trust, which runs the Annexe, has tried to deepen the organisation’s relationship with the community.
“When I arrived we had a lot of people doing things for other people. One, it’s unsustainable, and two, it gives people no sense of ownership over their own lives,” Bedding told Local Trust. “We needed to create structures that give people access to services, but the responsibility lies with them.”
A Big Local partnership has provided the funding for residents to provide frontline support for others in times of need. They introduced a scheme called Bags of Help to provide household essentials like washing powder and washing up liquid in small quantities, in return for an hour’s volunteering. Some have trained to help others sign up to their benefits on the Annexe’s computers.
A more transformational change could be on the way as the Wharton Trust eyes properties in the area. In 2018, Dyke House won a bid to be part of to be part of the Empowering Places programme, supported by Power to Change, NEF, Cooperatives UK and CLES, which is investing £8 million into communities over five years. In addition, the residents on the Big Local partnership have allocated £300,000 to bring up to six properties into the ownership of the Wharton Trust, to provide income after the grants have run out. The Trust is using money from the Government-funded Community Organisers Expansion Programme to train the tenants of the new homes in community organising and social action.
“Some of this stuff can make the macroeconomic difference,” Bedding says. “We need to make sure we take people with us. That’s where our sector has done well. Rather than putting a sticking plaster on it, how can we get wealth to stick locally – that’s where this could be useful.”
Dyke House is one of several projects around the UK supported by Empowering Places. More will be added to this website soon. Find out more at Power to Change.
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