Essex Community Foundation

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ECF Launches Vital Signs 2014

7th October 2014

The need to improve skills and education in Essex has been revealed as a key priority in a new Vital Signs report produced by Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

Vital Signs 2014 is the second report of its kind to be undertaken in Essex by ECF and the results from statistical data and a community survey show that despite the fact that the county is perceived to be affluent, it is lagging behind in terms of skills and education.

It also reveals the contrasts affecting people’s prospects and the quality of their lives and that where you live, work and learn can have a major impact on your life.

The report highlights the need for more apprenticeships for young people and more opportunities for older people to re-train and learn new skills.

Caroline Taylor, deputy chief executive of ECF said: “Vital Signs brings together existing statistical data and results from a community survey to give a 360 degree view of what life is like in Essex and how we are preforming when compared to other parts of the UK.

“Our first report looked at 12 themes which affect life in Essex and one area which emerged as a priority for our county was skills and education.  This year’s Vital Signs put the focus on this theme and shows how ECF, through its grantmaking, is helping to tackle this issue.

“Vital Signs 2014 shows that compared to all other counties, Essex does well in most key social and economic indicators, with the exception of skills and qualifications, where 67 per cent of all other counties score better.

“Most people in Essex have a good quality of life, but we still have too many people who do not and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of skills and qualifications.

“Whilst we can celebrate Essex’s success we must recognise there are inequalities that exist across the county. Only by working together can we ensure everyone can realise their potential.”

Vital Signs will be used by ECF to help ensure that its grantmaking continues to target areas of greatest need. It will also help encourage philanthropy, making it more effective in the county and will stimulate debate about how people can work together to improve skills and education for all.

People who are interested in supporting their communities can use the information in Vital Signs to direct their action to the most critical areas.  These issues affect us all, so this report and feedback is critical in helping ECF to understand how we can support communities now and in the future.

Vital Signs 2014 Report






To comment on Vital Signs contact ECF by e-mailing, visit Twitter and use #vitalsigns or @Essex_CF.

How ECF is making a difference

Grants given through funds managed by ECF are already helping to tackle the shortfall and inequalities in skills and education in Essex. Support has been given to several projects with the aim of giving people the chance to reach their full potential. The projects include:


Signpost Ltd has been given two lots of funding by ECF, in 2013 and 2014 totaling £13,020 to run a homework club on the children on the Greenstead estate in Colchester. 

The club is run at Signpost’s centre based at the library on the large housing estate, parts of which have been identified as being in the top ten most deprived areas in England.

Children and young people aged from five to 18 can take part in the club which is overseen by Essex Library staff and the youngsters can use computers, books and have all the facilities they need for their homework.

Over the past year children from 19 different primary and secondary schools in the borough of Colchester attended the club.

Paul Feasey, CEO of Signpost said: “The homework club is a fantastic thing. It is a very useful and well established initiative which is consistently well attended. The youngsters have access to all the kit they need and it is a nice safe place for them to come to after school to do their homework in a supervised environment. The club is also a great example of partnership working between ourselves and library staff.

The young people who come to the club are full of praise for it, saying when they are at the sessions  they feel better able to concentrate and learn more, they appreciate the peace and quiet and the help from the supervisor.

One of the youngsters who has attended the club said: “I feel comfortable here. I can use the computers for facts and this helps me with my projects. I can do my homework here in silence.”

Groundwork Green Team:

A grant of £103,316 was given to Braintree District Council to run a Groundwork scheme called the Green Team Project, to train young people in Braintree in practical landscaping and then help them to find employment.

The project has been “an unqualified success” so far and work has been carried out on more than a dozen sites across the Braintree District, each giving some benefit to the community.
Two Green Teams have already come through the scheme with flying colours, with many going on to employment. On the most recent project 100 per cent of those who took part passed the City and Guilds qualification and all now have good job prospects.

Stephen Wenlock, landscape architect with Braintree District Council who has been in charge of the project praised the young people who have taken part saying: “They have shown a very good work ethic and have had a fantastic attitude. Expectations have definitely been surpassed.”

Work is now taking place to take the scheme forward to give more help to young people affected by unemployment.

Vital Signs UK

ECF is one of the nine UK Community Foundations publishing Vital Signs reports today.

Caroline Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive of ECF who also Co-Chairs UK Vital Signs said: “This second year of Vital Signs has produced some striking and diverse results – a wealth of information brought together for the first time. The reports show up cracks in our communities – deprivation, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the fundamental problem of young people without jobs, education or training.  But as community foundations, our job is to guide the generosity of local philanthropists towards where it is needed most – and by assembling this picture of our areas, we are much better equipped to do that".

Vital Signs was originally conceived by the Community Foundations of Canada. It has been in existence since 2001, and last year (2013) marked the first UK involvement in the initiative. 

The UK participants for Vital Signs 2014 are the East End of London; Northern Ireland; Berkshire; Cambridgeshire; Essex; Lancashire; Merseyside; Milton Keynes; Hampshire and Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. The intention is to grow the number of participating community foundations every year. You can read all the reports here.

ECF’s Charity Golf Day

6th October 2014

Golfing enthusiasts were in their element on the opening day of the Ryder Cup, which by chance coincided with Essex Community Foundation’s annual charity golf day at Chelmsford Golf Club. 

A total of 80 golfers travelled from across the county and beyond to take part in the Chelmsford event which is organised by ECF Trustee, Carole Golbourn and her husband Alan to raise awareness of ECF’s work and support to local charities.

The course provided the 20 teams that took part with an enjoyable challenge.  Many of the players were from local businesses and some have corporate named charitable funds with ECF. 

This year’s winner was Ellisons Solicitors, John Husselbee’s came in second and Milsoms Hotels took third place.  Other corporate teams taking part included Arthur J. Gallagher, AW Squier Ltd, Beresfords, Birkett Long, Callaway & Sons, Coutts, LB Group, Provide, Sirgan Ltd, and Wilkin & Sons.


To view team photos click here.

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High Sheriff invites grant applications

5th October 2014

Local voluntary and community organisations are being invited to apply for grants and recognition from the High Sheriff of Essex Awards Scheme.

Grants of up to £1,000 are available from the High Sheriffs’ Fund, which is managed by Essex Community Foundation (ECF) and the money will be awarded to voluntary and community groups working to make their local communities safer places to live and work.

Recognition will also be given to local people who have made an outstanding contribution in their local community, making it a safer place.

The deadline date for applications is 30 November, so now is the time for organisations to take the opportunity to apply for a grant.

This year’s High Sheriff of Essex, Nicholas Charrington DL, said:  “There are so many voluntary organisations working with local people to keep our communities safe from crime.   The annual High Sheriffs’ Awards event provides a wonderful opportunity for their valuable contribution to be recognised, so I would urge organisations to apply for the funding that they need.”

An independent panel of judges, chaired by the High Sheriff and including past High Sheriffs, will agree the awards which will be presented by the High Sheriff at a special ceremony in March.

The historic role of a High Sheriff is to promote law and order in the county and it also now encompasses giving recognition and reward to those who help promote community spirit.

Since it came under Essex Community Foundation’s management in 1997, the High Sheriff’s Fund has distributed 498 grants totalling over £410,000 to voluntary and community organisations which are all working hard to support local people and address crime related issues in their area.

Projects which have received support include women’s refuges, anti-social behaviour reduction initiatives, garden maintenance schemes for elderly residents to reduce incidence of burglary, neighbourhood watch schemes and activities for children and young people.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of ECF said, “The High Sheriffs’ Fund is a valuable financial resource to the voluntary sector in Essex and ECF is delighted to manage the Fund and work with successive High Sheriffs, helping them to increase their understanding of issues which are being  tackled at a local level.”

The deadline for completed applications to the High Sheriffs’ Awards is 1 December.  

To apply click here.

Making Headway

4th October 2014

Suffering a serious head injury in an accident is something motorcyclists dread more than most. Oliver Game was only 20 when he had to cope with just such a trauma.

But he has been able to re-build his life, with the help of the charity Headway Essex, which has been given ongoing support by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).  Grants totalling nearly £150,000 have been awarded to Headway from the various funds managed by ECF over the past 13 years.

Oliver, now 26, from Thorpe-le-Soken in Essex, was riding his Yamaha bike to work when he was involved in a collision with a car.

Describing his experience and his road to recovery he said: "The day that changed my life forever started as just a normal day. It was six thirty in the morning and I was on my way to work to my full-time job at Colchester Zoo, a building maintenance job which I loved. I was knocked off my motorbike in an accident with a car at a crossroads.

“I can’t remember the accident or the previous seven or eight years of my life.  I can’t describe how odd it feels to be 20 and to lose over a quarter of your life in a flash.

“I was taken to Colchester General Hospital and spent three weeks in Intensive Care.  I didn’t leave that hospital for another five months and spent a further six months at the regional neurological rehabilitation unit at Homerton Hospital. I had suffered major internal injuries as well as a severe brain injury.

“I couldn’t talk or walk and had a tracheotomy. I can’t really remember my time in hospital except for a few things, like my Mum and Dad taking me to the cafeteria for a meal and being showered by two lady nurses. 

“Slowly, I began to talk again and for a long while I was in a wheelchair. My right side was most affected by the brain injury, my leg and arm were weak and I had poor vision in my right eye.

“My Mum and Dad have been fantastic, they visited me every day when I was in hospital and have always been there for me. I know that my accident and brain injury has been the worst thing to have happened to them.

“Whilst I was in hospital, Mum found out about Headway Essex from the Colchester Brain Injury Specialist Nurse and it didn’t take long before I had been assessed and started going to the Headway Day Centre in Colchester.

“I attended the centre for three years and it has played such a big part in my rehabilitation. Headway worked with me to strengthen my right side again and while I was at the centre
I worked on my computer skills, building up my right side hand-eye co-ordination.

“There are certain things that just aren’t the same as they were. I still have some difficulties with my memory and I have lost my sense of smell and most of my sense of taste, so curries are my favourite food now!

“My language can still be a problem and I have to think before I speak to make sure the words come out properly. Finding the words can be frustrating at times, but the funny thing is that I can spell better now than I could before the accident.

“I have been able to go back to work at the zoo four mornings a week, as a painter. They were great holding a job open for me.

“Since my accident I have lost touch with a lot of the people I used to hang around with, but I made many new and close friends at Headway.

“Headway has been fantastic to me. The staff and volunteers are brilliant and we always managed to have a laugh and joke. The meals were great too.

“Through attending Headway I learnt a lot about how the brain works and why my injury has affected me the way it has. It’s been amazing to meet so many different people who have gone through such different experiences and Headway brings people together and makes everyone feel they belong.

“It’s funny how humour can come into such a difficult situation and I am glad it does. I think I have a good sense of fun and I’ve even got an open zip tattoo above the long scar on my chest, which is pretty cool.

“I take every day as it comes and try not to look at the bad things that have happened to me. Once I got out of my wheelchair I was determined to live life to the full and Headway and my parents have helped me to do that.

“Headway has shown how committed it is to helping me and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if they hadn’t been there for me.”

Jo Hockey is the Trusts and Corporate Manager at Headway.  She says, “The work that we do is all about helping individuals, their families and carers to rebuild their life after brain injury.  Seeing how Oliver has moved on with his life is so rewarding, but for us to be there for others like Oliver Headway relies on donations and grant funding and we are grateful to Essex Community Foundation for their continued support.”

For Oliver, returning to work has been one of the greatest achievements in his recovery.

Paul Maguire is the estate manager at Colchester Zoo.  He said: “Oliver was a valued member of our team before his accident. We know how much he enjoyed working at the zoo and we were only too pleased to welcome him back and develop a working arrangement which, over time, has helped him to regain his confidence and independence.”

Oliver’s mum, Penny says, “Understanding and meeting the physical and emotional needs of someone with an acquired brain injury is immense.  The support of Headway and Colchester Zoo in the aftermath of Oliver’s accident has been an integral part of his rehabilitation.  Their continuing support for Oliver has helped him to regain skills, confidence and self-worth for which we as a family are very grateful.” 

Investing in Braintree

3rd October 2014

An award-winning housing association is making life better in the Braintree District, not only by providing top-quality homes and services, but also by supporting local groups and organisations that are making a difference to the lives of people in the area.

Greenfields Community Housing, which took over Braintree District Council's homes in November 2007, has the accolade of being one of only four gateway associations in the country, meaning that residents are given a stronger voice than usual in making decisions which affect their homes and communities.

As one of the largest housing associations in Essex, Greenfields has around 8,100 homes and 450 leasehold properties all over the Braintree District. Greenfields is a not-for-profit organisation, therefore takes its responsibility to the community seriously and from the start the association’s key aim was to be a force for good.

In 2008 Greenfields established the first Greenfields Community Fund, managed by Essex Community Foundation (ECF), to support voluntary and community organisations working to improve the lives of people in the Braintree district. Since then, further funds have been established by Greenfields and nearly £1 million has been distributed in grants.

Voluntary and community groups in the Braintree area can apply for grants from the Greenfields Community Funds to support projects, which could be anything from new play equipment, to improving wildlife areas or renovating community halls.

Projects supported include £5,000 to Friends of the Flitchway, helping them buy and refurbish a railway carriage as a community resource at Rayne station and £81,000 to run a partnership project with Groundwork to reduce the numbers of young people not in employment, education or training through a practical land based apprenticeship programme.  Some projects receive multi-year grants when a longer-term approach is required to enable them to make a real impact and difference.

Sandra Crosby, Housing Director of Greenfields said: “When we started out in 2007 we wanted to do much more than provide safe and secure homes. “As well as investing in our homes, we were also determined to invest in our communities and to help to improve people’s lives in a variety of ways.

“We were in an enviable position of having access to an £11 million partnership fund with Braintree District Council, but we felt a huge burden of responsibility and needed to learn how to give grants in the most effective way.

“We turned to ECF, who are experts in this field and set up a panel including tenants and representatives from Braintree District Council.  One of the benefits of our relationship with ECF is that, in 2009, we were able to take advantage of a Government matching funding scheme which was being delivered through Community Foundations across the country.  We invested £990,000 into this fund, which received a 50% matched funding uplift from the Government scheme and today it is worth around £1.8 million. We now distribute around £100,000 a year in grants and this will continue in the future, which is a fantastic legacy.

“ECF provide all the expertise in grant administration. They guide us to make the right decisions at the right time, helping us to know how our grant funding will make a difference and have the greatest impact.

“Our relationship with ECF has been a real journey of discovery.  Their contacts and extensive knowledge of the voluntary community are second to none. They have opened our eyes to the issues - many of them quite hidden - that exist in communities and given us the opportunity to target our support where it is most needed.

“Our vision and set of values are in common with ECF’s ethos and working together has brought a huge benefit for us, as well as to residents and recipients of grants in the Braintree district.”

Caroline Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive at ECF said, “Communities change and evolve all the time, but often the underlying issues affecting local people, remain the same.  The approach taken by Greenfields in establishing their funds with ECF, means that we can work with them to understand the issues and help them to address local needs both in the short and the longer term.” Organisations that have received grants from the Greenfields Community Funds include:

Witham Town Luncheon Club

The lunch club provides a warm and welcoming place for pensioners in Witham, many of whom live alone, to come and enjoy healthy nutritious meals and have much-needed contact and support. Around 90 people, with an age range of 70 to 100, attend the club each week, giving them a chance to eat well without spending a lot of money and to feel they are part of the community. The club relies mainly on volunteers and the Greenfields Community Fund gave the organisation a grant of £5,500 to help pay the salaries of two cooks, who are the only employed members of staff. Bryan Smith, Treasurer of the lunch club said: “The people who come to the club are healthier, not only because of the good meals, but because we help to generate well-being and prevent isolation and depression. One lady in her eighties who comes to the club said that we transformed her life, after her spending many years supporting a disabled daughter on her own.”

Braintree Youth Charity

Thanks to a grant of £8,000 given from the Greenfields Community Fund, through ECF, young people in Braintree will be able to benefit from extra activities, such as adventure trips and educational support. The Braintree Youth Charity runs The Hut, a youth centre for young people aged 11 to 19 and the funding will mean a Youth Project Administrator can be employed at the centre in a new role, enabling its work to be expanded. The centre already has a successful track record in helping “hard to reach” young people by getting them off the streets of the town in the evenings, but also by working with them to instil responsibility and initiative, offering activities to help them with employment, educational issues and peer-relationships. Having an extra member of staff will allow the centre to expand its programme and run a wider range of activities. 

Kirsty Huxter, the project administrator said: “There is generally a lack of opportunities in Braintree for young people to improve and enhance their life choices and experiences.
“Our project will give them the tools and recreational activities to learn new skills and learn how to socially interact with others, it will give them greater confidence and self-esteem to build a brighter future with job opportunities.”

First Stop Centre – Braintree

The First Stop centre has been helping and supporting some of the most disadvantaged people in the Braintree District for over 30 years. A grant of £39,000 from the Greenfields Community Fund will give the centre the stability to plan for its future work over the next decade and beyond. The money will mean that the Centre Manager’s role is secured for the near future, allowing the charity to set its sights on developing the various ways of helping and supporting people who are most in need. Rachael Stone, the Centre Manager said: “We have always been a forward thinking organisation, helping the vulnerable clients of the district through a variety of interventions.

“The role of the Centre Manager is pivotal to the whole centre.  It is the link between staff, volunteers and clients, and the main link for other agencies. This funding will allow us to re-enforce links with the agencies we currently work with and develop new ones. We can see that although we are well used, we have become less visible and we need to promote our organisation in order to grow.

The centre has been supporting vulnerable clients in the district for over 30 years and it is now time to start looking to strengthen our framework.”

How to apply

If your organisation is based in or working in the Braintree District then you may be eligible to apply for a grant. We are now accepting applications to the Greendfields Funds and you can find more information here.

Helping in Harlow

2nd October 2014

Some of Harlow’s most disadvantaged people have had their lives turned around, thanks to two recent grants, totalling almost £10,500, which have been awarded from the Harlow Recreation Trust.

Razed Roof received £9,600 for out-of-school arts and drama activities for young people with severe learning difficulties and disabilities. 

Annette Lidster from Razed Roof, which is based at Harlow Playhouse said: “We have linked with other organisations and charities to run arts and drama activities for young people in a theatre workshop environment. This has enabled them to develop their self-confidence and social skills and has helped promote a sense of independence, while their parents or carers have some time for themselves and others in the family. Our participants really got the taste for acting so our first performance was for friends and family.  We also organised some exciting trips to the theatre which for some of our young people, was their first visit – and they loved it!”

• Homeless people attending the Steets2Homes day centre in Harlow have had a boost to their self-esteem and discovered hidden talents through arts and crafts sessions made possible by a grant of £865.

The arts and crafts sessions held by Street2Homes have proved very popular and covered drawing, painting, modelling and card making.

Kerrie Eastman from Streets2Homes said :“Many of those who have taken part have discovered hidden talents and a positive way to express their feelings through art. The project has been so successful in providing clients with something constructive and creative to take part in, exploring and growing new interests and talents.

“One of our clients has been coming to the centre for four years and has never been interested in joining any of the workshops until the arts and crafts project. He started to get involved making cards and modelling and has now grown in confidence, built better relations with other clients and went on to join the client volunteer programme.

“Another client attending the workshop had not drawn since school and has now found art to be a way for him to release his emotions.

We are hoping to display the work from the workshops when we hold an open day at the centre.

The arts and crafts project has had a real impact on the general wellbeing of the clients who took part. Many have grown in confidence, found a positive way to express their feelings and have found they have a creative side to them. The project has also helped create a safe and friendly environment to develop and build positive relationships.”

The grants have made a major difference to both organisations and have opened up new opportunities to the youngsters and homeless people.

As well as the Harlow Recreation Trust, ECF manages another fund dedicated to the Harlow area, the Harlow Education Trust, which this year gave a grant of £5,000 to the Firebreak project run by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, to help vulnerable youngsters work as a team and consider the consequences of any actions they may take.  Both of the Trusts were transferred to ECF in 2006 and 2009 respectively to ensure that they would continue to benefit local people in perpetuity. 

Voluntary and community organisations in Harlow are encouraged to apply for grants for community projects or for core funding to help them continue with their work.

Wind Farm Fund invites applications

1st October 2014

Voluntary and community organisations in Tendring in need of a funding boost are invited to apply for grants for local projects and activities in areas near the Earls Hall Wind Farm. 

The Earls Hall Farm Community Benefit Fund, managed by ECF, was launched last year to give long-term support to the local community in Bockings Elm Ward, St Osyth Ward and Little Clacton.

In its first round of community grants the fund allocated more than £12,500 and six organisations received support.  The largest grant of £2,911 went to to St Osyth Village Hall, to replace damaged flooring in the annex and store rooms.
St Osyth Playing Field received £2,891 towards the refurbishment of the St Osyth Pavilion;  St Osyth Pre-School was given £2,500 to help provide extra toilets and St Osyth Youth Group was allocated £1,050 to pay for regular hall hire.

The Great Estate of Bockings Elm Residents’ Association (GEBERA) was granted £2,500 to fund events such as bingo and coffee mornings and the 5th Clacton Scout Group has received £960 towards the cost of a new session for beavers and cubs.

The second round of grants will be distributed soon and local community and voluntary groups can now make applications.

A panel, made up of local residents, works with ECF to consider applications to the Fund and agree grants.  The panel is particularly interested in supporting voluntary organisations needing small grants to enable them to make a big difference in their community.

Caroline Taylor, ECF's Deputy Chief Executive, said, “This Fund was established to support local community projects so we would encourage organisations working in this area to apply for grants which will help make a difference to the lives of local people. The Panel is a great resource as it improves our understanding of local needs and issues and we are always interested to hear from residents who would like to become involved."

Local residents who live in the area and who are interested in joining the Panel should contact Fran Wright at ECF on 01245 356018 or email

How to apply

Completed applications must be submitted to ECF by 30 October in order for the panel to make decisions in November.  ECF encourages people to discuss their applications in advance of submission.  Call the grants team on 01245 356018.  To apply click here.

Help and advice is also available locally from CVS Tendring by calling Karen Tedder-Ward on 01255 425692.