Happy New Year to everyone.
I’ve mentioned many times that the council is always looking for new and innovative ways of working and delivering services, particularly in these more challenging times.
I have been delighted to recently support the Hartlepool day services’ “Roots to employment” project which will help to provide 40 jobs for people with learning difficulties and mental health problems aged 18-24, who are currently in receipt of benefits.
Even when times were relatively good, this vulnerable group of adults has always been extremely difficult to get into work so it is particularly exciting to see this project get off the ground at the current time.
There will be a number of different job opportunities created, predominantly at three different locations across the town, which will be funded by the final round of the Future Jobs Fund.
If you have been up to Rift House recreation ground recently you will have probably seen the development of a community allotment at Waverly Terrace.
This project has been up and running for a couple of years now and some excellent partnership working between the council, Hartlepool College of Further Education and a number of voluntary sector organisations has really transformed some derelict allotment plots and turned them into a hugely successful project that teache new skills to some of the more vulnerable adults in our society.
The site boasts two large greenhouses and planting areas. There is over 1,000 square metres of planting area, some of it raised for wheelchair access and a teaching area.
The site is large enough to accommodate up to 40 people at one time and will look to create a business of supplying fruit and veg to other establishments around the town.
The college is a key partner in this scheme and, over the longer term, they will be looking to tailor and deliver entry level programmes for adults with learning difficulties and other vulnerable groups.
This has the potential to open up a whole new raft of opportunities for people to develop skills such as building, architecture, plumbing, painting and decorating and other trades.
It is hoped that in the longer term, a learning facility could even be created on site, designed and built be the people who would use it.
The Centre for Independent Living, in Burbank, will look to develop a lot of services targeted towards the most vulnerable as well as the wider community.
Part of this will be to develop a community café and this will be the second area which will provide jobs for the Roots to Employment project.
The third employment opportunity will be located at the Laurel Gardens extra care housing scheme and it will be the creation of a community shop. The shop will provide a vital service for residents, visitors and the wider community.
All three projects will be very closely linked with the garden providing a lot of the produce for both the café and the shop.
The positive outcomes for all three of these schemes and the Roots to Employment project generally are far too many to list here.
The project will gives job opportunities to many people in our society who are usually always overlooked by employers.
Skills such as horticulture, business management, catering and retail will be learned and give the vulnerable adults a fantastic opportunity to go on and get jobs in other areas.
All three schemes will provide some great services and benefits to the wider community and I cannot speak highly enough of the partners who have come together to make this a reality. There is nowhere else in the country even close to achieving what this project will here in Hartlepool.
The only down side to this is that the Future Jobs Fund is coming to an end. This is not seen as a reason not to press ahead with the Roots to Employment project, quite the opposite.
It may be that the jobs are time limited but we will creatively use the time to look at other potential sources of funding. There will be some income generated and I suspect a number of funders will be very interested in how things pan out.
Once again, Hartlepool leads the way and this time it is getting people with learning difficulties and mental health problems into work. We hope to give people the skills and experience to be competitive in the wider jobs market and give them the type of opportunities in life that are so often taken for granted by the rest of us.