Central Bedfordshire Council news and press releases

Community building renovation opens up learning opportunities for young people

Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Young people at risk of disengaging from mainstream education have learned new vocational skills as part of a project to refurbish the Downside Community Centre for the benefit of the community.

A £25,000 grant from our UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) Community Grants Scheme enabled Volunteer It Yourself (VIY), a community interest company, to invest in much-needed materials for the community space.

With the help of professional mentors, VIY helped 24 young people learn new vocational skills as they undertook the renovations. Those who participated have all gained an Entry Level 3 City & Guilds accreditation in either health and safety or painting and decorating.

The refurbishment, which includes renewal of the floor, refitting of the kitchen, and replastered, tiled and decorated toilets, have made the building more desirable to hire for the benefit of the whole community. A viewing area was also installed to allow parents to view the very popular boxing sessions that Ringcraft Boxing run at the centre.

Councillor Walsh, Chairman of the UKSPF Local Partnership Group and our Executive Member for Planning and Waste said:

It was great to see the enthusiasm from local groups across Central Bedfordshire in applying to the UKSPF and REPF Community Grants. Volunteer It Yourself was one of 11 fantastic projects that have been funded.

The refurbishment of the Downside Community Centre by these young people is fantastic to see and they should take great pride in what they have achieved. I would also like to thank everyone who volunteered their time to mentor the young people and help them learn new skills. The improved facilities are a great local asset, and I would encourage more individuals and groups in the area to make use of the hall.

Tim Reading, CEO of VIY, said:

The aims of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund mirror those of our mission here at VIY; providing a valuable opportunity to improve pride in place in areas like Dunstable, by transforming community places and spaces in areas most in need, and increasing life chances by boosting skills and employability amongst local young people volunteering on these projects.

VIY has received £25,000 of government funding through our UK Shared Prosperity Fund Community Grants programme together with match-funding from Sport England. Materials for the project were donated by VIY's partners, including kitchen units from Toolstation and paint from Dulux.