King’s Castle Foundation
The King’s Castle Church is a multi-ethnic community church that is now well established in Byker and ready to go into the Byker community of Newcastle to carry out community-based activities. One of the ethos’s of the Church is to make a difference in the lives of the people in its environment.
The church is committed to the Byker area and its people irrespective of their belief. In response to that, THE KC FOUNDATION has been established as a delivery vehicle of support services to the residents in the area. In response to identified needs in the Byker Community, the Foundation has identified the following needs as high priority areas for action:
- Food Bank
- Education and Training (e.g., numeracy & literacy classes leading to GCSEs)
- Training for Life Programmes including understanding of Universal Credits and Budgeting
- CV writing skills & Basic I.T. Skills
- Holiday Club
- Sports and recreational activities for the youth (i.e., Family Fun days, organising sporting tournaments football etc.)
- Befriending Scheme/ Supporting the Elderly i.e., day centre, Fitness classes
- Health and Wellbeing Programmes (i.e., Healthy Eating, Diet, Exercise etc.) Soup Kitchen ( mainly looking at evening meals because there appear to be a gap in service provision for evening meals as breakfast appear to be well catered for in the form breakfast clubs and school dinners)
- Nursery/Play Group / Mum’s & Toddlers
We are well aware as a foundation that we cannot tackle all these needs at the moment as we are currently only using a part of the building for the Church aspect of our Charity, whilst the other part, when fully refurbished and furnished, will be used for some of the community-based actions and programmes as listed above.
In line with The KC Foundation’s objective of transforming the community for the better, it has been charged by the Trustees to initially focus on the implementation of a Food Bank (FB) and Financial Literacy Classes awareness project (FLC).
Food Bank project
It has been estimated that four food banks are opening every week in the UK and demand has been steadily increasing due to the rising cost of living, static incomes, changes to benefits, underemployment and unemployment, and the most common reason provided by clients frequenting food banks are they either in serious debt or affected by recent changes to their benefit.
The city of Newcastle as a whole is relatively deprived; out of the 173 most deprived areas in England (which represents 10% of the population of England), 43 are in the city of Newcastle. Some parts of the city continue to suffer from multiple forms of deprivation that severely restrict the life chances, and indeed the life expectancy of the people who live in them. In this regard, whichever aspect of social inequality is being considered, it is almost invariably that Byker, the area where The King’s Castle Church is located would feature prominently amongst these worst 43 areas, with a significant volume of households without work or skills and claiming benefits.
Currently there are no food banks operating in Byker meaning that residents who require emergency food supply have to travel some distance, with the nearest access point at the Newcastle East Food Bank operated by Elim Pentecostal Church located on the boundary of Heaton and Byker. However, this creates problems as the food parcels tend to be rather heavy and most recipients of food parcels do not have their own transportation, our Food Bank will provide improved access to food and much needed support for Byker residents in desperate need and contribute to alleviating food poverty by supporting some of the most vulnerable residents in Byker and surrounding areas.
Financial Literacy Classes project
While our food bank will help families in crisis by providing emergency support, we also believe that helping families who are in debt or have other financial problems to make lasting change by learning about basic budgeting. Budgeting for groceries and general financial literacy including savings and access to basic financial products especially those provided by credit unions, will ensure that they are able to break the spiral of indebtedness and build their financial confidence and ability to plan on their own.
Although the increase in the use of food banks and other free services have been attributed to a number of factors, however, sketchy evidence from local residents we have engaged with to date has confirmed that the single most significant factor has been the major changes to the benefits system that was implemented under the government Welfare Reform Programme in April 2013, and is set to continue until 2017. These changes have affected all benefits claimants and when fully implemented it is likely to disproportionately affect a significant proportion of residents of Byker and surrounding areas, and in particular those that will be using our food bank and other services in the area. The more significant changes include:
- The transition to Universal Credit from a range of current income related benefits will be both an opportunity and a challenge for clients and their families.
- The shift to a single monthly payment, including housing costs, made to the household rather than the individual or directly to their landlords, will necessitate good money management for many claimants to ensure they are able to better manage their finances at the risk of compounding their debt problems with increase in rent arrears anticipated.
- Claimants to maintain their own financial record online
It is anticipated that over the next few years, the need for support in budgeting and money management will increase due primarily to the welfare reform changes, allied with increased pressure on low income households as a result of inflation, expected rise in unemployment in some areas, reduction in benefits rates and linking benefits to the Consumer Prices Index, rather than the Retail prices index.
It is anticipated that once fully operational, our food bank will be provide the bulk of the participants on the training programme. We will proactively monitor how and why clients access our food bank, and a requirement for provision of services could be attendance at one of the workshops, especially where the client has accessed our services on more than one occasion. We will also work collaboratively with statutory and voluntary sector partners to publicize this service within the area including financial inclusion activities / links / partnerships, other local organisations / partnerships and Job Centre Plus.
Listed below are other projects we are working on to run alongside the FB and FLC:
- Computer Literacy Classes (CLC) – this is aimed at giving the long-termed unemployed, the ethnic minority and such as need the service and help with Digital Inclusion (i.e. online form filling).
- Family Group Conferencing (FGC) – A setup conference room that can be used by the social services to meet with separated family units for reconciliatory/non-reconciliatory supervised meetings or visits.
- Contact Centre (CC) – A safe and secure room where estranged parent(s) can meet with their child/children under supervision.