The Investing in Communities Programme for Hertfordshire was instrumental in identifying what the key social inclusion drivers for Hertfordshire are and how appropriate interventions can provide a clear and robust rationale to regenerate and build prosperous and sustainable communities. The outcome of these interventions helped to influence future strategic planning at a sub-regional level for the county, provided better alignment of budgets and identified gaps in mainstream provision.
In determining the context for the IiC Programme and future interventions, Hertfordshire County Council and its partners have focused on the core principle of developing interventions that address the overall strategic priority of improving employability. This is addressed through the delivery of the 3 strategic priority interventions of:
Ø Educational and Skills Development
Ø Economic, Enterprise and Business Development
Ø Community, Capacity and Partnership Development
The Parents into Work project supports across three of the interventions areas by tackling Education & Skills, Economic Enterprise & business and Community Cohesion and capacity building.
The Parents into Work project offers a holistic approach to tackling issues of social deprivation through education and employment programmes and used existing service provision and expanded on partnerships. In Central Watford we have around 60 organisations that have a professional interest in working with children and parents. A forum was created to encourage greater community participation. Additional sustainable funding has been sourced to compliment the existing mainstream services, whilst service level agreement between partners consolidated the commitment to offer training and services to the target group for the duration of the Parents into Work project. We actively recruited over 350 hard to reach parents and fully involved the local community, creating prosperous and sustainable communities. This was enhanced by the additional recruitment of 143 volunteers and focussed on delivering the project and engaging fully with the community.
Skills & Education - We will continue to work with Ethnic Minorities, Women, over 50's, Lone Parents and disability groups (IB claimants). We address low levels of educational attainment by developing further learning activities that allow progression into more formal classes. We motivate and encourage our communities to shape their own destiny.
Employability - Watford Junction station is a busy junction and one of the first stop-off points outside of London travelling North, that offers relatively cheaper housing for migrant workers, this has produced a higher than average number of ethnic residents. This project reaches out to all sectors of the community. We engage with the whole of our community through an open door policy and further reach out to be fully inclusive. We worked with Jobcentre Plus New Deal programmes and linked to existing training providers where ever possible.
Enterprise - By developing a vocational training and work experience programme, we were able to recruit, train and make our parents employable. Some took up self employed work as Childminders, other employed as Childcare Workers and all gained a host of other caring and office based skills. As more parents continue to return to work, so more childcares are needed in a self-perpetuating cycle of education, employment and supporting other parents into education, then employment offering further support for more parents and children.
Economic - We work specifically with Lone Parents or workless households for our vocational classes offering NVQ in Childcare, NVQ Administration & NVQ Health & Social Care. Hertfordshire is three times more likely to have Lone Parents than other areas of East of England and twice as likely to have no qualifications at all. By offering training and education for parents of the under 5's we will allow parents to become "employment ready" by the time their child is starting at primary school aged 5+.
Access to Services - "The lack of appropriate and accessible facilities services related to training and education" is one of the drivers identifying the need for the Parents into Work project. We use our Parent Bus to engage on fun Day Trips in outlying areas of the town, enabling engagement from more rural and urban areas. The social and emotional support we offer as "pastoral care" helps to prepare individuals for the workplace.
Two sites were developed to deliver the Parents into Work Project.
Purchase and extension of 83 Market Street, Watford
This site has been used for the last 6 years as a community facility and is ideally located on one of Watford busiest secondary retail streets. It is within pram-pushing distance from local amenities and public transport. The Parents into Work Project refocuses the facility's usage on a new clientele, specifically parents in the local area. After renovation and extension, the site now has a fully functional and DDA complient classroom, meeting room, family room & creche, as well as office space as the charity Head Office.
We own the freehold of the property which consists of multi-use activity rooms on the ground floor and basement and offices on the first and second floors. The Parents into Work Project has enabled the property to be refurbished and extended at the rear under new planning permissions and revalued through the valuation office to create one single building instead of two seperate maisonettes.
The Wellspring Church Centre, Watford
This site was acquired by Watford Community Church.
Watford Borough Council approved the plans submitted for the Wellspring Church Centre and Watford Community Church were awarded a 125-year lease. This is accompanied with a Community Use Agreement which ensures social cohesion and that the facility will be delivering community-oriented services for the duration of the lease and guarantees long term sustainability.
Sunshine Children's Centre Charity further sought and achieved a 50 year legal contract with the Wellspring Church Centre to deliver sustainable projects in partnership with Sunshine Children's Centre Charity that will support Parents into Work.
In seeking to deliver the Parents into Work facility, Sunshine Children's Centre Charity, sought funding from Hertfordshire County Council to support the substantial capital investment required. Funding was approved by the East of England Development Agency following our application under the Investing in Communities programme. As part of this appraisal Hertfordshire County Council required a supporting business plan, which summarised the overall investment proposal.
Ø Develop a business case in a form (and level of detail) acceptable to Hertfordshire County Council for consideration of capital funding support; and,
Ø Alignment of strategic objectives of local, sub-regional and regional stakeholders;
Ø Statistics and information to clearly demonstrate a need for public sector intervention;
Ø The key physical requirements associated with the development option and an outline of anticipated development timescales;
Ø Delivery structures to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for the day to day management, governance and monitoring of the development and subsequent operational phase of the project; and,
Ø A review of project risks and related mitigation approaches to ensure such risks may be minimised.
The strategic fit for the investment was based on the following elements;
Ø Strategic Fit - examining the strategic objectives of the project and the relevance of these objectives to local, sub-regional and regional stakeholders;
Ø Market Context - exploring a range of statistics and other information, which demonstrated a need for the project, with a particular focus on levels of deprivation across Hertfordshire;
Ø The Project - Outlining the key features of the preferred option (in terms of physical facilities and services to be delivered), linkages to other facilities and strategies and an overview of anticipated outputs;
Ø Financial Projections - providing cash flow forecasts for the preferred option together with an explanation of key supporting assumptions for capital and operating costs and associated revenue streams; and,
Delivery Structures -setting out the key partnerships underpinning governance and delivery of the project, detailing the working arrangements, roles and responsibilities of key partners to ensure accountability and summarised the risk assessment procedures.