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New skills, new confidence, new business launched

A project designed to get people out of unemployment and back into work has led to one young woman launching her own business.

Thanks to almost £100,000 in grant funding, the Skills 4 You project in Cleator Moor has boosted confidence and given hundreds of people skills to make positive changes and get them back into employment.

One such person is Lisa from Cleator. She lost her job and was feeling low. She found the Skills 4 You project, which teaches woodcraft and upcycling to help people who have a chronic lack of confidence, caused by mental or physical health challenges.

When Lisa joined the craft group, she was feeling anxious, having regular panic attacks and suffering from depression. But, determined to try lots of craft techniques, she quickly got the hang of decoupage and painting, so much so that in 2018, she started her own business upcycling and re-purposing old furniture and mirrors.


Lisa said: “The course was a major influence; it gave me the inspiration and confidence to start my own business after a terrible time in my life”.

The future now looks bright for Lisa. She is enjoying her new adventure, learning new skills as she develops her business and selling her unique furniture through social media. She explained: “It’s a fantastic feeling to take a piece of furniture that nobody wants anymore and turn it into a centre piece that will be cherished by its new owner.”

Christina Timney, Grants and Information Officer at Home to Work, said: “We are so pleased that we were able to be part of Lisa’s journey through the rough times to where she is now.”

Lisa’s story is a familiar one, and although Lisa has an array of qualifications and many years of experience behind her, West Cumbria has high levels of unemployment, where a shocking one in four adults living in Copeland have no qualifications.

Trying to address this issue is the Skills 4 You project, run by social enterprise, Home to Work, by providing training opportunities to local residents. The project was launched in 2014 and has been supported by Cumbria Community Foundation for the last four years, to offer practical skills, mainly to 16 – 24 year olds, and a range of short courses to help people get on to mainstream accredited courses.

The eight-week training offers the opportunity to learn woodworking and crafting in an on-site workshop. Alongside the practical training, the course offers mentoring, support in writing a CV and how to perform in a job interview. It also looks at the social skills in life which can support mental health and wellbeing.

The activities on offer include restoring furniture, recycling salvaged timber to make garden furniture, planters or picnic tables, and creating simple wooden items like small toys, bird boxes, bird tables and sandpits.

The training course also helped Joe from Whitehaven. He left school at 16 with six GCSEs and had numerous jobs over the years. However, when he became unemployed, he started at Skills 4 You as by then, he had 4 children and wanted to be able to support his family.

Joe competed the Skills 4 You programme and went on to work in grounds maintenance. He said: “The Skills 4 You programme gave me the confidence and motivation that I needed to tackle the labour market. I was approached by Home to Work to apply for an apprentice position working with the Whitehaven Lengthsman scheme. I was delighted to be offered the job, working towards an NVQ in amenity horticulture.”

Christina continues: “We are so proud of what our clients and the project has achieved. Our team has formed relationships with local people, many of whom lacked confidence, were in poor physical and mental health, and had no opportunity to learn new skills, as well as employers who advertise vacancies with us.”

Home to work was first supported by the Foundation in 2007. £998 from the Sellafield Site Fund replaced old garden equipment for the Works 4 You project, developed to generate income by providing grounds maintenance services and employment to the local community. The garden scheme had been running for 6 years and the grant contributed to 2 lawnmowers and 2 strimmer’s to enable the charity to deliver garden services to the elderly and deprived communities of Cleator Moor, Frizington and Workington.

The great escape

Described by one member as “The Great Escape”, Caldbeck’s heart-warming community project “Men in Sheds” provides a perfect social haven for men to share their love of woodwork and a bit of a ‘craic’.

Men in Sheds is exactly as it sounds, a shed known as the Old Joiners Workshop where men can seek friendship and pursue their practical interests. It’s a larger version of an ideal garden shed, located by the very beautiful, but secluded, Caldbeck Pond. It’s accessed by residents from the local area, often with the help of volunteers due to their age and isolation. Stepping inside you will discover a friendly, safe and inclusive environment where members share tools and resources to work on projects of their own choice at their own pace.

One member Bert, who is 90, and would normally be very isolated and alone, said: “I live for Tuesdays and Thursdays.” The atmosphere is welcoming and warm as the sun shines through the dusty windows and the smell of bacon butties and warm wood fills the air. This is the place to be if you want to enjoy the companionship of likeminded and caring friends. An absolute need in this area for people like Bert, where issues including fuel poverty, and lack of facilities, services and transport affect them.

The project meets twice a week and has more than 30 regular attendees. It not only provides respite for carers but a refuge for older men – some with early onset dementia. They also repair notice boards, vintage motorbikes and playgrounds. Their latest activity is making benches for Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

The vast number of projects, managed by Northern Fells Group, has received almost £200,000 in grants administered by Cumbria Community Foundation since 2004.

Libby Graham, Fundraising Coordinator, said: “The support offered by Cumbria Community Foundation and the grant aid we have received over the last 13 years, has been invaluable to the organisation and the communities of the seven parishes we serve. It has enabled the Northern Fells Group to pilot new initiatives, to expand our services and has provided the sustained continuity required to build and support our volunteer base, to ensure that our services are of the highest quality and to help us to continue to meet the changing needs of our users.”

The Men is Sheds project continues to go from strength to strength. The Shed Master, Ken Graham and volunteers are self-admitted ’a bunch of big kids in old bodies.’ The members also support their local pub and meet every week with family members to have tea and a catch up.

Northern Fells Group is a community owned and volunteer led charity. Covering 200 square miles of upland terrain where 4,000 residents live, work and play who can also be vulnerable, isolated and excluded from vital services.

To respond to needs of the local community, the charity developed a range of services in addition to Men in Sheds, including a community minibus, a Village Agent service, a Lend a Hand scheme, benefits awareness advice and holiday play schemes, along with social and recreational activities.

Over its time the group has helped many people. One gentleman has lived in the village since he retired from farming. Over the last few years, he suffered from high levels of anxiety, which meant that phone calls and any letters or bills caused a great problem. Small things easily overwhelmed him and he lost confidence in himself. The group provided social activities for him to attend on a regular basis such as Men in Sheds, where he was a regular for many years until going into a care home. He also attended lunch groups and other social activities run by the NFG. The Village Agent assisted him with ordering household aids and with sorting and filing bills and contacting utility providers. He used the minibus regularly when he gave up driving. He also used the Lend a Hand service to fit bathroom aids for safety.

Libby continues: “Residents face day-to-day issues like poor or no public transport, poor health and loneliness, and low incomes stretched by rising fuel prices. New people to the area and long term residents often don’t have family support networks.

“The grants mean that our services can continue to provide a lifeline for older, disabled and vulnerable people and are greatly valued by the wider community.”

Fundraisers brave the cold for charity sleep out

The yellow weather warning didn’t stop more than 60 eager campers giving up their warm homes over the weekend for a cold, wet and windy night under the stars to help older people stay warm in winter.

The Big Sleep is an annual event organised by Cumbria Community Foundation to raise money for their Winter Warmth Appeal, which supports older people in Cumbria who struggle to pay their heating and fuel bills in the colder months.

With temperatures around 2 degrees and dropping to nearly zero in the night campers enjoyed the friendly atmosphere while Little Sleepers were kept entertained by storyteller Ian Douglas and a family movie. Volunteers from Calderwood House, a homeless hostel in Egremont, kept everyone warm with their speciality coffee, and English Lakes Hotels provided the evening meal and breakfast rolls in the morning.

Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of the charity, said: “We’ve had another fantastic year at the Big Sleep and a huge thank you to everyone who took part or who supported them. Since we launched the event six years ago, it has raised more than £100,000 and this money makes a huge difference enabling us to continue our work, helping older people within our community.

“Extra funding is always great, but awareness is even better, and we want people to understand what fuel poverty is and how it affects people. The money raised will be used to provide grants to some of the poorest, most vulnerable older people in the county. Thank you to everyone who took part or supported the participants.”

Quotes from people around the county – images available on request to go with each quote:

Nicol Moffat and Rosie Edge from Maryport and Cockermouth, Home Group. Nicol said: “We work for Home Group, a local housing association, and we have had a lot of customers who are in fuel poverty and thought it would be a great idea to raise awareness.”

Kendal Event Medics provided first aid cover in-kind as they “wanted to support a great cause.”

Workington Fire Cadets, Keegan Milligan and Liam Sharples from Workington. They said: “We are raising money for people who are struggling to heat their homes in the winter, this is a great cause and we hope to raise £100 each, it will be great fun but very, very cold.”

Beth Nicholls from PPM Ltd. Beth said: “I work for PPM Ltd, in housing and property maintenance and we come across people living in fuel poverty – having to choose between “eat or heat”. This is a great opportunity to fundraise with our partners at Home Group. The cold weather really drives home the reality of how cold conditions can affect people in the winter months.”

Eve and Bethan Handy from South Lakes said: “It’s a great cause and a fun night.”

Laura Davies from Kendal: “I wanted to do something different to challenge myself. Camping right by the lake while raising money for Cumbrian people is a great idea.”

Andrew and Seth Eze (Team Brewin Dolphin) from Lancashire. Andrew said: “We are doing the Big Sleep to raise money for a brilliant cause (Winter Warmth Appeal) and to have an adventure with my son. My colleagues have done it in the past and we are looking forward to a great night of fundraising.”

Mark Barrow, Jenna Nixon, Sarah Wright from H&H Group, Carlisle and Kendal. Mark said: “The Big Sleep is something different and a great opportunity to camp by Windermere. We want to raise money for people who are experiencing fuel poverty and this is a realistic experience of how cold it can be for some people in the winter.”

Thomas Hood, Cheryl Hood, Lucy Benson, Laura Horrocks, Anita Benson, Georgina Smith and Marion Little from Napthens Solicitors in Kendal. Lucy said: “The Big Sleep is a great event to raise money for elderly people in Cumbria who are experiencing fuel poverty. We are in for a cold night and we hope to raise lots of money for a fantastic cause.”

Councillor Brian Hewitt, Vice Chairman of Lakes Parish Council, Ambleside said: “It’s my first time doing the Big Sleep for the Winter Warmth Appeal. Our county is very generous with food banks so this is a wonderful and different way to support Cumbrian people and help them to keep warm in the winter months. I personally would rather be hungry than cold, I hope to raise awareness and extra funds for this great cause.”

Team Dodd and Co, Jamie Dobson, Neil Boothman and Ian Topham from Penrith.

Jamie said: “It’s my fifth time at The Big Sleep. We are supporting Cumbria Community Foundation in raising money for the Winter Warm Appeal which helps people in Cumbria in fuel poverty which is a big issue and the government fuel allowance doesn’t go far enough and this is a great way to help those that need it.”

Simon Berry, High Sheriff of Cumbria. Simon, who is Chairman and Managing Director of English Lakes Hotels Resorts and Venues said: “I’m sleeping out for one night to raise money for people who can be cold every night, it just has to be done. It’s a privilege to be here and to support a great cause.”

Paul Lewis, Chief Finance Officer of Lakeland Limited. Paul said: “The Big sleep is a really good event to raise money for the Winter Warmth Appeal that supports local people. Cumbria Community Foundation is a great concept, it’s fantastic and I want to help support local people having just moved to the area.”

Sam Spencer – the Littlest Sleeper from Cockermouth, Mum, Joanne said: “Sam is very excited to be camping out under the stars. It’s a great atmosphere and we are enjoying our family adventure for a great cause.”

Hayden Holliday – Little Sleeper from Maryport said: “I am really looking forward to camping out tonight. It’s very cold, but we are going to brave it for this very good cause. I have raised £100 so far.”

Phoebe Collister from Whitehaven who volunteered at The Big Sleep with her friend from school, Pippa, said: “I am absolutely enjoying helping out at The Big Sleep. Everybody is so friendly and we are having a great time. It’s great to see so many people taking part to raise money for the Winter Warmth Appeal. ”

You can still donate towards the Winter Warmth Appeal.

Visit or phone 01900 825760.

Or you can send a cheque to: ‘Cumbria Community Foundation’ and write ‘Winter Warmth’ on the back. Send it to: Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0PN

If you or someone you know is in need of support from the Winter Warmth Appeal, please contact your local Age UK.

More images to follow soon.  The Big Sleep Gallery