A Sunderland charity has been awarded nearly £15,000 in grant aid to launch a new community handyman service.

CHANCE (Community Help and Neighbourly Care for Everyone), based in the city’s East End, was awarded the grant by local housing provider, Isos Housing, to set up the scheme, Empower U.

The free service will see a team of volunteers carrying out DIY tasks to help people in their own community, while also gaining the employability skills and confidence they need to access the jobs market.

CHANCE project co-ordinator, Julie Maven, said: “A couple of times a week we have people coming in to our centre asking for practical help – it might be an elderly person who’s struggling with a household job like changing a light bulb, or someone who needs help to cut their grass.

“We decided to get together a bank of volunteers we could call on and, ideally, because we are based in an area of high unemployment and work to help people move on in terms of life skills and employment prospects, we thought that these volunteers could also be part of a scheme to help them learn new skills.”

CHANCE has now appointed a volunteer tutor, Andrew Maven, and even though his first four students won’t start their training until the new year, he’s been hard at work helping local residents.

He’s already been called out to deal with a number of handyman tasks, including dismantling some garden decking which had fallen into disrepair and was attracting vermin – and the householders were so impressed with his work that one of them has now signed up to become a volunteer themselves.

As part of their 12 weeks’ practical skills training, all volunteers will undergo a full induction including health and safety, lone working and manual lifting and handling training. They’ll also learn budgeting and independent living skills and brush up on their literacy and numeracy.

Much of the course will be supported by online e-Learning, leading to recognised qualifications, with valuable practical work experience gained as the volunteers train.

The volunteers will also get the chance to work on a range of community projects, including community clean-ups, and there’ll be an opportunity to take part in placements to develop business administration skills and gain experience working with older people.

Initially a year-long pilot, the handyman service will be available to residents and Isos tenants for free, with householders required to supply any necessary materials.

Isos community involvement officer, Paul Hadden, said: “These volunteers will be working in their own community, for the benefit of that community – perhaps helping a friend, a next door neighbour, or the elderly person that lives at the end of their street.

“At the same time, they’ll be learning real, marketable skills and gaining the sort of experience employers like to see on someone’s CV so that, ultimately, by helping someone else, they’re also going to be helping themselves.”

CHANCE was set up in 1993, initially offering support to local parents and young families living in the city’s high rise flats, The Garths.

It went on to develop a range of education and training opportunities, relocating to purpose-built accommodation six years later and is now a registered charity run by local people.

For further information about the handyman service, or for details on how to become a volunteer, contact the charity on Tel. (0191) 5670978.