WHO WE ARE
West End Impact was founded in 2002 as a trust (reg. charity number 1094125) and converted to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in 2013 (reg. charity number 1153736).
We are a Christian charity but not exclusively for church people, our faith inspires us to do what we do, but we include anyone. In the beginning we opened our doors and provided a free meal for those who were finding it hard to make ends meet. Our strategy was not to have a strategy, but to help people in whatever they were struggling with. That was the starting point of what has developed over the last 21 years. As we saw the needs, we developed our services to meet the needs. Instead of starting programs we thought were a good idea, we got to know the people over free food, and then organically established the programs together around the struggles the clients shared with us.
The West End is an area in Morecambe, Lancashire, one of the poorest coastal towns in England. It has a population of approximately 5,000.
The West End is typical of many coastal communities where tourism has declined; poor employment opportunities and a legacy of low wages, a large amount of privately rented, substandard accommodation in multiple-occupation, with many being former seaside guesthouses.
The wards around our centre are ranked as low as among the 1% most deprived areas in England. Our local population is affected by low income, poor health, below average life expectancy, low educational attainment, poor housing and homelessness and high levels of crime with problems such as drug use and anti-social behaviour.
The West End also has low male and female life expectancy and relatively high levels of child and working age poverty.
Through countless conversations with people over a free meal and research of the services available locally, we discovered many barriers in accessing services. Over the years our services have developed to try and fill some of these gaps and overcome barriers.
WHAT WE DO
Reacting to Crisis
Crisis is often the first point of contact. It usually starts with us providing a free meal or food parcel (from our small food bank) and then, as we get into conversation, we assess the needs. However, people do also just pop in for a chat as they know we provide help in many ways. We have set up 2 weekly Advice & Guidance sessions where people receive advice on Benefits, Housing, Budgeting and Well-being. Laptops, free Wi-Fi and use of the telephone are available at these sessions.
During the person’s visit, we try and compile a plan of action, to help break things down into smaller manageable pieces. Problems can be very overwhelming and people with multiple needs often don’t know where to start to get help. Lives are often a tangled web of issues that need dealing with one step at a time. This means that someone will come to see us on multiple visits before we feel like we are starting to scratch the surface of their issues. Some do however just need a little helping hand and a bit of advice and information and they are on their way, others we have continued to support for years.
The hope is that we can always help people to move forward and re-build their life. We have therefore developed ways of helping people to re-build their lives with all our other services.
‘Re-Building Lives’ includes various projects to help just that. Our therapeutic art group INNOVATE, which helps with confidence and builds self-esteem through creativity. INNOVATE has developed over the years and so we opened an art shop/gallery social enterprise called THE RE STORE. This has given opportunity for volunteers to gain experience in retail in a shop setting. It has also helped many people to develop their art and crafts, gain AQA qualifications and sell their products. We recently opened a second shop ‘RESTORATION’ which specialises in restored future. We are teaching volunteers how to French Polish and fully restore old furniture.
For many people our VOLUNTEER programme is part of their recovery. We are often the only place that entrusts them with responsibility, believes in them making a significant contribution and welcomes them into a community of people who have (or still are) struggling with similar issues. This obviously helps them in their journey, but it also has a positive impact on our services, shaping them by people with lived experience.
We have volunteer opportunities with helping provide our community meals, our food bank, building maintenance and generally helping in the day to day running of the centre. We give volunteer training and full support and mentoring to people.
We also run a 10 week course called ‘LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL’ which is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) based course for people suffering from depression, stress, anxiety and low-mood. The course is followed by lunch and our INNOVATE art therapy group as part of our 'Well-Being Wednesdays'. We are a very welcoming community of people who understand from experience.