Lifeline Hartlepool charity to close after 31 years

HVDA chairman Paul McCraith (left) and manager Keith Bayley outside of their Grange Road office. Picture by FRANK REID
HVDA chairman Paul McCraith (left) and manager Keith Bayley outside of their Grange Road office. Picture by FRANK REID

A Hartlepool charity that has supported thousands of volunteers and hundreds of groups is to close after 31 years.

Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) has helped town voluntary and community groups secure over £7 million in funding and given out almost £4 million in grants to groups.

HDVA chairman Paul McCraith (sitting) with (left to right) manager Keith Bayley and staff Liz Ashton, Tracey Wilson, Carole Craggs. Picture by FRANK REID

HDVA chairman Paul McCraith (sitting) with (left to right) manager Keith Bayley and staff Liz Ashton, Tracey Wilson, Carole Craggs. Picture by FRANK REID

But the lifeline service has announced it is to close its doors to the community at the end of the month with five workers losing their jobs.

Difficulties in securing core funding in recent years has been blamed for its demise.

Manager Keith Bayley told the Mail: “The reason for our demise is cuts in funding generally across the board.

“Government cuts since 2010 but also local authority cuts.”

HVDA organised a meeting which led to the development of the successful Hartlepool Men's Shed project

HVDA organised a meeting which led to the development of the successful Hartlepool Men's Shed project

HVDA, based in Victoria Road, dramatically scaled back its staff and services after Hartlepool Borough Council withdrew funding of around £68,000 a year in 2014.

And a change in the Big Lottery Fund’s criteria means it no longer supports organisations like HVDA.

Paul McCraith, chairman of HVDA, said: “I feel very sorry for the community and voluntary sector in the town because its their loss too.

“It is very depressing not to be able to continue the work we do.”
Established in 1986 with a Government grant, HVDA’s has supported voluntary and community groups, including recruiting and placements of volunteers.

HVDA held an awards ceremony in 2012 to celebrate 25 years

HVDA held an awards ceremony in 2012 to celebrate 25 years

In that time it has helped more than 200 groups each year with everything from helping to apply for funds and writing constitutions to training volunteers, funding activities for disabled children and giving residents a greater voice.

Keith added: “People who want to volunteer but don’t quite know what they want to do come to us.

“We have brought many millions of pounds to Hartlepool that would not have come here.

“Previously, Hartlepool was the most successful local authority area in the North East for getting lottery funding per head.

“About half of the grants coming to Hartlepool were as a result of our work.”

Keith and Paul said they believe the closure of HVDA will leave a big hole in the community.

Keith said: “If you are a voluntary or community group where do you go for that help?”

He added: “I talk to lots of people for who volunteering was the first step on the ladder to doing something else, maybe a change of career, or getting experience to go to college.

“Often, you come across people who will say that as a result of coming here they were able to change something else in their life.”

Keith said the wider impact has already started to be felt due to HVDA winding down in the last two years and less funding for the voluntary sector being available.

He said: “Ultimately, there will be less services and activities.

“I think some groups will survive because they have got tenacity and termination.

“But when you need help there will be nowhere for them to go and get help.

“That’s the big difference.

“It is the loss of a service but also a service that when we had staff was well used.”

Service has much to be proud about

HVDA says despite its impending closure, the service has much to be proud of over the last 31 years.

Examples of its achievements include:

* Providing advice and guidance to 9,787 adult volunteers and 3,397 young volunteers;

* Provided advice and guidance to 232 voluntary and community sector groups each year;

* Helped groups get over £7.3m from external bodies;

* Distributed £3.98m of grants to groups;

* Influenced statutory bodies to give £24m funding to voluntary and community groups;

* HVDA played an important role in a successful proposal to the Government for Hartlepool to benefit from the New Deal for Communities 10-year regeneration programme;

* Between 2002 and 2006, HVDA administered grants through the Hartlepool neighbourhood Community Chest, helping to reach the most marginalised groups;

* In a 2009 survey of Hartlepool’s voluntary and community sector, HVDA received a 92 per cent satisfaction rating with almost three quarters identifying HVDA as the most significant provider of support to VCS groups.