In September 2015, Stanley Town Council was approached by PS Dave Clarke who had a vision to turn a junk shop on Stanley Front Street into a community cafe which would provide support, training and mentoring and help to tackle social isolation and a range of issues. The Town Council supported his vision by taking the lease of the building on and that initiative has grown into PACT House, which has been a shining example of how a local council can tactically deploy a small part of its budget to empower and enable a wide section of the community and support volunteering and community led social support by giving them a focal point with security of tenure.
The Council believes this model of supporting key local third sector partners is a model which not only provides support for people at the sharp end where it is needed but also represents incredible value for money. The Council could not possibly have provided a resource like PACT House on its own without spending hundreds of thousands of pounds and had it tried to, there would have been no guarantee that the public would have ‘bought in’ in the way that they have with PACT being an independent locally managed organisation.
Following this model, the Town Council is now in the process of trying to secure a permanent base for the Just for Women Centre. The Just for Women centre is another local success story, providing help and support and therapeutic services for hundreds of local women, young people (and men, through their CREE projects) which have been vital helping vulnerable people who have nowhere else to turn. They also work with young people from both local secondary schools and through the Catch 22 programme. Their current premises are being sold and there is a real risk that the charity and the services it provides could be lost to Stanley if they cannot find suitable alternative accomodation. The programme of austerity that has been in place for nearly 8 years means that many vital services supporting local people have been lost as the statutory providers can increasingly only deal with only those in absolutely dire need. Without services like Just for Women and PACT House, there would be many more in dire need which would stretch those statutory services even further and further squeeze people in need of help and support locally.
An article form the Northern Echo last year gives just some examples of the work that the centre has done locally.
Local MP Kevan Jones, who is president of the charity, said “I’m delighted to see that the Town Council are rising to the challenge of using their limited resources to see services provided in Stanley in an innovative way by working in partnership and providing support to third sector providers to enable the community to help themselves and deliver much greater value for money”
This is why the Town is proposing to purchase a building in Stanley to lease to the Just for Women Centre to give them the security of tenure to keep their existing services going and be able to build their programme in the future. We welcome the public’s opinions as to whether supporting local charities to provide services in Stanley is a good approach for the Town Council to take.