And on, Friday November 27th, the new ‘iLearn’ centre was officially opened by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.
The refurbishment came together through Isos hosting a week of activity like an episode of DIY SOS, where dozens of volunteers descended on the former Stobhill Community Link building on Shields Road in Stobhill, to transform it into the sparkling new ‘iLearn’ Centre.
Staff from Isos worked alongside partners from all sides of the business world, public sector and voluntary sector to make the project happen.
Mr Lavery said: “This project shows what can be achieved by organisations working together, hand in hand, in the best interests of the local community.
“People often get the impression that everyone in Morpeth has plenty, and it is a successful town, but here in Stobhill, there are parts of the area which are in the 10% most socially deprived parts of the country.
“Hopefully people using this centre will get the self belief, the understanding, and the support to enable them to achieve something in life.”
As a not-for-profit housing association, Isos decided to invest staff time in the project, instead of financial investment, and was able to involve its private sector partners, who stepped in to provide thousands of pounds worth of building materials, decorating equipment, paint, and volunteers to make the project come to fruition.
Between them, the partners worked to provide and install dozens of new components – everything from a new sign on the exterior of the shop unit, through carpet tiles, new panel heaters, notice boards, lighting, cupboards and filing cabinets.
iLearn is a partnership between Isos, Northern Learning Trust (NLT) and Northumberland Community Enterprise Ltd. (NCEL) aimed at improving employment opportunities for everyone in this part of Morpeth. Most homes in Stobhill are owned and managed by Isos.
The iLearn project sits at the heart of an Isos housing estate, and brings together the knowledge and understanding that NCEL has of the locality and the expertise of NLT to provide support to local residents to improve their English, Maths, ICT and employability skills.
There will also be two volunteer training programmes which will be delivered over the next year. Finally, the iLearn project will also work with people in the community who have low level mental health problems.
The partners have recognised that many people who claim Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance experience difficulties dealing with Jobcentre Plus, particularly attending and coping with work focussed interviews. This can often be due to their mental health issues.
The project will work with ‘Stepping Up Community Confidence’, an organisation who are specifically funded to reach this target group.
Isos has worked with all sides of the community to support Stobhill Community Link in recent years, with local councillor Ian Lindley being supportive on many occasions.
Tina Drury, executive director of Customers & Communities at Isos, said: “We are a housing provider, but we don’t just see ourselves as that.
“We are about improving people’s lives, providing opportunities. We have a duty of care to work with those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable, to give people a platform to succeed in life.”
“We are very grateful to all the partners who have helped us make this project a success, to provide this fantastic facility for Stobhill.”
Warwick Durnian, community investment officer for Isos, lead the refurbishment project on site at Stobhill.
He said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by all the help and donations we have had to help make this project possible.
“When you see DIY SOS on television, you think it couldn’t happen that way, but everyone has been so fantastic, all coming together to refurbish this building into a really welcoming environment, so we can get this project up and running.”
Isos wants to thank all its partners who helped to make the iLearn project possible:
ASKAMS – funded the refurbishment work
Albany Contract Furniture – provided low cost office furniture and designed the new glass partition
Easi-lay Flooring – installed new carpet tiles and provided safety flooring for the iLearn Centre’s bathroom.
Esh Property Services – provided two site managers to assist with re-decorating.
Jewson Ltd – provided all decorating materials for free
MITIE – provided carpet cleaner with upholstery attachment to clean office chairs
Newcastle Flooring Company Limited – donated new carpet tiles for free
Strettle of Newcastle – providing a new granite plaque at a discounted price
Waymid Electrics – cash donation of £100 towards cost of project