Somerford ARC set up by residents of Somerford Estate with the purpose of opening and running a Community Centre. It is run by a board of Trustee’s, two members of staff and 5 volunteers.
The ARC is located in Somerford Christchurch and supports a diverse group of people, predominantly from disadvantaged areas.
The Somerford estate has 4,875 residents and is in the top 20 percent of deprived areas in the UK.
Local food banks evidence the financial struggles within the area. The number of people being helped is drastically rising, over 800 people in Christchurch were helped through the “summer school Holiday Hunger scheme” two thirds of which were children. Universal Credit is seen as the main driving force in creating the increase in the number of emergency supplies handed out. The new payment scheme is leaving claimants on a five-week minimum wait for their first initial payment, although it is not unusual to see applications take as long as 10 weeks, resulting in families having no choice but to turn to local food banks. People already on low incomes are plunging into rent arrears, debt and in some cases homelessness.
Their challenges fall into four key categories: -
- Mental Health
- Financial Hardship
All the groups and activities run by the ARC are specifically chosen to address and reduce growth within these areas with a pragmatic approach.
In 2018 our yearly Fun day enabled us to reach out to residents about what they felt the community needed. And the biggest response was regarding activities for the 0-8 year bracket.
The breakfast Hub and Children's activities are run by our Office Manager and two volunteers. We rely solely on funding for these two projects. Any funding received will cover for hall hire, food and crafting expenditure to keep these opportunities open to the community and continuing the Centres key beliefs, that we must provide nil cost or very affordable activities to our Community
- Breakfast Hub
80% of mums under 30 meet with their friends less due to lack of finances and obstacles with childcare. Ongoing loneliness and isolation for parents, makes them far more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
With the rise in use of local food banks and reports that 1 in 7 children are going to school without breakfast, we opened a term time breakfast hub for preschool children and parents after the school run, charging a small fee of £1 per adult and no charge for under 5's. Included in this fee is unlimited refreshments, and a menu offering bacon and sausage sandwiches, cereals, flatbread, toast and crumpets. The group brings parents together, with the additional benefit of bringing smaller children to play in a social environment improving their self-development.
weekly footfall: averages 25 per week with this number growing
- Family half term art and craft activity days
Holidays can be stressful to low income families, financial hardship brings periods of isolation and inactivity, seeing declines in children’s well-being. Our activity days are affordable fun crafting sessions made accessible to all. Charging a small fee of £1 per child this includes unlimited crafts, refreshments and biscuits.
footfall: averages 50 children per crafting day
These groups have become a comfortable environment for the families and we are building good relationships with the parents as well as the children. We are able to signpost them in the direction of support. It is important to us that these groups are both parent led and they tell us what they want from us as a community centre to greater their environment.
Parents are building friendships and are already speaking as a group rather than sitting alone and sheltering in pairs.
We aim to reduce isolation in this age bracket, providing affordable activities with the opportunity to signpost and support hard to reach families. It also gives us the opportunity to make residents aware of other support services they can access here at the ARC:
•Free Courses run by Sovereign Housing Association.
•Skills and learning weekly job club.
The area has a high level of long-term unemployment and increasingly younger people are struggling to find work. Poor educational attainment, skill gaps, lack of self- confidence and self-worth are typical of the challenges we are seeing. Partnered with sovereign Housing Association and Skills and Learning we can offer free courses and run a weekly job club aiding the user with interview skills, building CV’s, employment searches, confidence building, and IT support.
These opportunities help users find their strengths and learn new skills, giving them a new sense of self- belief. Between us we can help steer residents back on the road to employment
Weekly Support Hub
•Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Universal Credit Support
•Sovereign Housing Association
•BCP Council Housing Team
Our drop in allows existing services to work together in a more integrated way, offering face to face support without an appointment. Experienced advisers from Citizens Advice specialise in matters varying from law and courts to debt and Sovereign Housing providing housing advice to those in need and gives tenants the opportunity to meet with their team. We have recently been joined by a Citizen’s Advice Universal Credit specialist. We can see up to 60 people accessing this drop-in service a month with numbers continuing to rise due to the ongoing Universal Credit complications.
Providing this user friendly, easy accessible service reduces stress and anxiety
Dorset Mind Your Head Drop-in
Nationally 1 in 10 children and young people needs support or treatment under mental health. Dorset Mind provides a programme aiming to equip young people to have the resources, tools and support they need to build resilience and learn how to deal with difficult emotions. Dorset mind offers a six week 1:1 counselling programme. Waiting lists for mental health support cause long delays that can lead to self-harming, a fall out of education and family breakdowns. To reduce the pressures on this service Dorset Mind Your Head run a weekly drop-in group open to children and young people before and after there is a need for specialist support. seventy per cent of children who are experiencing a mental health condition don’t receive the proper support they need, Dorset Mind and Dorset Mind Your Head work together in a bid to ensure all children are connected with a support system.
Aiming for children and young people be as mentally healthy as possible
The ARC was built with the aspiration is to cultivate community spirit and bring our resident’s together. priding ourselves in providing support and giving our community a voice
We are growing every day, and with a strong network of Trustees, Staff and Volunteers, between us we are continuously working on new projects to greater our environment and to keep us at the heart of the Community.