A Northumberland charity has upgraded the facilities it can offer vulnerable young people around the county thanks to a five-figure donation from Newcastle Building Society.

Barnabas Safe And Sound has used a £49,956 grant from the Society’s Building Improvement Grants (BIGs) scheme to carry out major refurbishment work on the main floor of its Wellwood House headquarters on Dark Lane in Morpeth.

A large central space has been created for the dozens of young people who use the building every day, including new windows, doors and decoration, while a dedicated breakout room for one-to-one counselling and a new quiet area have also been created.

A big kitchen in which service users can develop and practice their independent living skills has also been built, while the building has also been fully rewired, replumbed and fitted with improved internet and camera systems.

The work has been carried out over the winter, and the new facilities will be officially unveiled once the building reopens after the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Hayley Brown, manager at Barnabas Safe And Sound, says: “Wellwood House was formerly a funeral home, and while it’s been a very valuable facility for us, its layout and environment meant it wasn’t really fully fit for purpose.

“Making one big room from lots of smaller ones has helped us create a really positive, welcoming space that we know will be well-used by the dozens of young people with whom we work.

“Our new kitchen provides the space and facilities in which service users can practice the culinary skills they’ll need when they’re living independently, while the breakout space and quiet area give them the option to get away from the crowd if they want to.

“There’s no way we could have afforded to get this work done with the Society’s help and it will make a massive difference to the support and facilities we can provide to dozens of vulnerable young people.”

Sarah Lawrence, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s North Shields branch, through which the grant nomination was made, adds: “Supporting and enhancing our communities is central to what we do, and we maintain strong, active links to lots of community groups and charities right across our region.

“Barnabas Safe And Sound makes a massive difference to the quality of life that dozens of local young people can enjoy, both immediately and in the longer term, and we’re very pleased to be able to support their invaluable work through our Building Improvement Grants scheme.”

After launching its Building Improvement Grants (BIGs) scheme in 2018 by making an initial £50,000 available to fund capital projects within community buildings across the North East and Cumbria, the Society doubled the value of grants available to help charities, community groups and good causes last year to £100,000.

Most recently, the Society also supported the Community Foundation’s Coronavirus response and recovery fund by donating £100,000 to support charities and groups who will be supporting the most vulnerable through this time.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The most recent application period saw 42 projects that had been nominated by Society customers, receiving a total of £92,514 between them.

Originally set up in 2002, Barnabas Safe And Sound aims to prevent youth homelessness and promote independence for young people living across referred to it from across the county by Northumberland County Council.

As well as providing supported accommodation for young people aged between 16 and 25, it also gives ‘floating’ support to other young people who are already living in their own home or may be about to do so, but who need help in finding, managing and maintaining their accommodation.

The charity also offers information, advice and guidance on other housing matters and youth support programmes for 13-19 year olds with the aim of helping to prevent potential issues with homelessness in the future.

Music, art, cooking, team building, problem solving and sports all form part of the services offered by Barnabas, along with advice and guidance on issues including sexual health, drugs, alcohol and mental health.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation is operated in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.