Essex Community Foundation

News archive

Grants available to tackle housing issues

21st October 2019

Local community housing projects and charities are being urged to put their case forward as Nationwide, the world’s largest building society, makes £500,000 available to help make a difference to communities across the region.

The Society is inviting applications for grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 for housing projects that will support the most vulnerable in local communities.  

So far Nationwide has awarded £7 million in grants to more than 180 projects and will be investing over £20 million in housing projects across the UK over 5 years. The programme is being delivered with support from UK Community Foundations, the national network for all accredited Community Foundations across the country.

Charities, community land trusts and housing co-operatives in Essex can apply for grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 for one or two years to make a change in their local area. The deadline to apply is Friday 22 November at 5pm.

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of Essex Community Foundation, said: “Finding safe, affordable and sustainable housing is a growing challenge for communities across our region. That’s why we’re pleased to work with Nationwide Building Society to fund the organisations tackling this issue on the ground and supporting those who need it most.”

Andrew Westhead, Nationwide’s Regional Director for the East of England Region said: “In 2007, our members voted for us to donate at least one percent of our pre-tax profits to good causes and asked that we focus on tackling housing issues. We recognise there is a housing crisis, resulting in many people living in unsuitable, insecure or unaffordable accommodation.

So, to help make a real and lasting difference, we are aiming to make over £20 million available in grant funding for housing-related charities and organisations across the UK over 5 years. We are delighted to open the local application process and encourage housing related charities and organisations to apply so that they can collectively benefit from the £500,000 award that is available to communities across the East of England.” 

Projects funded previously through the programme include:

  • Homeless Action Resource Project (HARP): £50,000 to employ a Housing Co-ordinator, over two years, to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Safer Places: £50,000 to employ a Housing Support Officer for one year to work with women and families affected by domestic violence to find long term housing.
  • REACH Community Project: £31,588 to employ a Debt Advisor for one year to increase free face-to-face debt and housing advice offered to vulnerable people.

Gary Turner, HARP’s Service Operations Manager, said: “This grant has allowed us to fund an innovative new post, that not only will help prevent people losing a tenancy and becoming homeless in the first place, but will also allow us to strengthen our relationships with landlords, letting agents, housing associations and Southend Borough Council housing departments, so that service users who are ready are able to take the final step and live independently in the community. We are very appreciative of the funding and have already increased the number and quality of relationships that we have with private sector landlords and letting agents to provide more affordable accommodation.”

A Community Board, which is comprised of Nationwide members and employees, will review all the grant applications and award grants of up to a £50,000. The Board and Nationwide branches within the region will also be providing time and expertise to these charities.

Applications to this funding programme are now closed. If you are in need of funding to support a housing project, please call the ECF grants team on 01245 356018.

Online mental health support service expands

16th October 2019

An online mental health support service for students has launched at Writtle University College in Chelmsford following its success at the University of Essex.

'Chat with Charlie', an online one-on-one platform which provides confidential support for students, was first launched at the University of Essex during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018 and was originally trialled for three days a week.

However, due to popularity and demand, 'Chat with Charlie' extended to seven days a week, with students being able to log in and talk to a counsellor between 6pm and 10pm in the evening. 

'Chat with Charlie' is funded by the Charlie Watkins Foundation, which was set up by Harry Watkins in memory of his twin brother, Essex-born Charlie Watkins. Charlie took his own life in March 2017 at the age of 22. The service is delivered by Mid and North East Essex Mind at its Colchester office.

On the expansion, Harry Watkins said: “We are absolutely thrilled to see 'Chat with Charlie' expand to Writtle University College. Helping just one student would have made it all worth it – but to hear it’s helped many more is a phenomenal achievement.

“We’re in conversation with other establishments across the UK about expanding even further. We’re so proud of this legacy we have created for Charlie.”

Professor Tim Middleton, Vice-Chancellor at Writtle University College said: “Chat with Charlie has been an excellent addition to the services we already have to support students. We believe it’s a service that can benefit many universities and colleges and we’re incredibly proud to be the second establishment to take it forward.”

Chief Executive of Mid and North East Essex Mind, James McQuiggan, said: “We’re thrilled that Chat with Charlie has been such a success and we are immensely proud to be a part of the team behind it. Being away from home for the first time can be particularly daunting for students and we hope this platform can provide some comfort while they are doing their studies.

“We are pleased to bring this service to the students of Writtle University and hope to extend the service further in future.”

Donations to support the 'Chat with Charlie' initiative can be made through Essex Community Foundation (ECF) which manages the Charlie Watkins Foundation.

Jo Macaulay, Head of Communications at ECF said: “We are pleased to work with the Watkins Family and in Charlie’s memory, help young people at a time when they may need extra support."

Support this initiative 

For information on how you can donate to the Charlie Watkins Foundation, please call ECF on 01245 355947.

The Charlie Watkins Foundation also hosts, supports, and participates in a wide range of charity gatherings. An upcoming event is an evening with Bravo Amici on Friday 6 December 2019 at The Guards' Chapel, in London. For more information about the event and to buy tickets, please visit:

Essex charities urged to apply for funding

16th October 2019

The Essex & Suffolk Water Community Fund, which awards grants of up to £5,000 to charitable projects that are related to either wellbeing, community support or the environment, is inviting applications for funding.

Since the Fund was set up with Essex Community Foundation (ECF) in 2003, more than £105,000 has been awarded to voluntary groups and charities working in the Essex & Suffolk Water supply areas.

Among the previous recipients is Age Concern Southend. The charity, which provides advice and services to older people, received £2,000 to buy furniture for their new headquarters.

Lin Boulter, chief executive of Age Concern Southend, said: “Our new premises in Westcliff-on-Sea combines all of the services and activities that we offer to our members.  The grant we received helped us to refurbish the centre to create a welcoming and friendly space where people can meet, socialise and receive support.

“We regularly run social activities for our members, which include a dance fitness class, tai chi and yoga so there is always something for everyone to enjoy, have fun and be active.”

Local charities and voluntary groups that have also benefited from funding are:

  • Billericay Tenants Group: £1,500 to rent a room for a regular coffee group that brings older residents together to socialise
  • Samaritans - Chelmsford & Mid Essex: £1,500 to run a volunteer recruitment and training programme to help support vulnerable people
  • Thurrock Mencap Society: £2,000 for a programme of healthy lifestyle and fitness activities to improve the well-being of members that have a learning disability

Grant applications are assessed by ECF and then considered by a committee of Essex & Suffolk Water employees.

Michael Page, External Communications Consultant, Essex & Suffolk Water said, “Water is one of the most important commodities in our lives and we are very aware of the essential service we offer to our customers.’’

“We also strive to make a positive contribution to the communities that we serve on a daily basis, and our long-standing partnership with ECF is one of the ways we endeavour to do this.”

For information on how to apply for a grant, please call the ECF grants team on 01245 356018. The deadline is 8 November.

Supporting families during the school holidays

15th October 2019

A school holiday lunch club will be able to cook up more free hot meals for Colchester families after receiving a £500 grant to buy a new oven.

The MakeLunch project, run by Churches Together in Myland, which is based at the Mile End Methodist Church, provides cooked food during the school holidays for local families who are eligible for free school meals during term time.

The project also offers a range of free activities, including crafts, outdoor games and face painting.

The much-needed grant for a new oven has been awarded by the Mersea Homes Charitable Fund set up by the property development firm in 2010 with the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

To date the fund has distributed grants totalling £30,000 to support local voluntary and community organisations in Essex.

Lynsey Heslegrave, who runs the lunch club and is the Baptist Minister at Churches Together in Myland, said: “We are so grateful for the grant from the Mersea Homes Charitable Fund as we desperately needed a larger and more efficient oven to help meet a growing demand.

“We cook hot and healthy meals every Thursday in the school summer holidays and during some other holidays for children and their parents or carers.

“This helps to support them through what can be a very difficult time of the year both financially and emotionally. 

“When we first started providing meals in 2017, we had around 10 to 15 people attending the lunches. This past Summer we had 40 people through our doors every week."

Stuart Cock, managing director of Mersea Homes, said: "We were very pleased to buy a new oven for the lunch club as we know that so many local families will benefit from the meals and the activities that are also provided.”

ECF supports a wide range of community and voluntary activities across Essex. For more information, call us on 01245 356018.

Building brighter futures

7th October 2019

A bright future beckons for Caolan Orchard, who has transformed his life and is on the right path to achieve his ambition of becoming a chef.

His destiny could have been completely different, because, in his own words, Caolan was a “vagabond” when he was younger, taking and selling drugs, becoming homeless and even spending 18 months in a young offender’ institution for petty theft and drugs offences.

The custodial sentence gave him stability for the first time in his life and made him vow to reform and build a better future for himself.

Thanks to his determination, the support of his employers at Tymperleys restaurant in central Colchester and a grant from Essex Community Foundation (ECF) he has now completed an NVQ course in professional cookery at Colchester Institute which will take him closer to his goal of being a chef.

“I have always loved food and cooking and I love the energy, heat and creativity of the kitchen,” said Caolan, whose name, which has Irish roots, is pronounced Kee-lan.

“I have had a lot of different jobs ever since I was 13, but Tymperleys is the best place I have ever worked. I started out washing dishes, moved on to be a kitchen assistant and then took on the role of commis chef.

“I have learned so much here and it has given me a great opportunity. I always wanted to have a career established before I was 30, rather than lots of different trades, but never found anything before that I could really get into.

“Now I am coming up to the age of 30 and I am where I want to be. It’s been hard work, but my whole life has completely changed. I can run a kitchen serving 80 to 90 people and know that if need be, I can step up to the role of head chef. 

“My childhood was very turbulent and my family was affected by separation, drugs and alcohol. We moved around a lot and I was never able to settle at school. I started doing drugs and selling drugs myself and struggled with my mental health, even thinking at times about killing myself.

“I have had a few encounters with death, but I do believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Going to prison actually gave me the stability I needed, and I decided that I had had enough of slumming it, being homeless and having no direction in my life.

“I took any opportunity I could to gain some education, came out of drugs and found a way forward with an ambition to be a chef.

“The faith shown in me by Tymperleys over the past three years and receiving the grant from ECF to take the course at Colchester Institute have given me the best opportunities to turn my life around, move ahead and use my new found skills.”

Caolan is now planning to move to Cornwall, where his mother and one of his sisters live and says, “One day I would love to have my own Caribbean restaurant mixed with English classics. “

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said, “We were delighted to be able to help Caolan with a grant from our Opportunity Fund towards his tuition fees for his college course.

“ECF has a small number of educational funds which focus on buildings skills and increasing employment opportunities for young people. We can award grants to help young people who want to undertake training but who struggle financially to cover all the costs. 

“One vocation offering very good career opportunities is hospitality, catering and even training to be a chef.  Tymperleys is an excellent example in the support they have given Caolan.”

To find out more about grants available from ECF, please call 01245 356018.

We are recruiting: Head of Programmes

1st October 2019

-Please note that this job has now closed for applications. Do keep an eye on our website for future vacancies.-


We are recruiting for a Head of Programmes, with the passion and commitment to make a difference to the lives of local people in Essex.

The successful applicant will have a strong track record of achievement gained at management level in the charity sector. 

They will bring strategic thinking and creativity to the role to ensure the effective development and delivery of the Foundation’s grantmaking and partnership programmes, matching the interests of our donors with the changing needs in our communities.

As the leading funder in Essex, this is an exciting time to join ECF. We have just agreed our new five-year strategic plan and the development of our grantmaking and partnership programmes is a key role as we plan to invest at least £15 million in local communities.

We are looking for someone who will bring energy, drive and is passionate about helping others.  In return, this role offers an unrivalled opportunity to join a highly regarded and reputable organisation.