Innovative new training programme attracts big investment for local charity

A charitable organisation has been awarded over £22,000 to help establish a new vocational education and training programme in Northumberland.

Blyth Star Enterprises, which provides living support, work experience and day services for people living with learning disabilities and mental health issues, has acquired funding through a number of charitable trusts including The Ridley Family Charity, the Gwyneth Forrester Trust, the Guyll Leng Charitable Trust and the Didymus Charity to help get its woodfuel and woodwork training programme off the ground.

Operating a number of small business ventures across multiple sectors within Northumberland, Blyth Star Enterprises is dedicated to providing transferrable skills and valuable work experience to people living with severe and enduring mental ill health and learning disabilities. One such business is The Woodfuel Centre in West Sleekburn.

Specialising in processing and producing sustainably sourced kiln-dried kindling and logs for wood-burning stoves, The Woodfuel Centre is run by a team of trained professionals with support from Blyth Star’s service users.

After successfully piloting an accredited training programme within another of its projects, Blyth Star Enterprises has replicated the scheme with The Woodfuel Centre to give its service users the opportunity to acquire higher level skills and qualifications to enhance their chances of finding employment outside of the organisation in the future.

Neil Hedley, manager at The Woodfuel Centre, said:

“The woodfuel and woodwork training programme is based on a comprehensive modular framework which is delivered over the course of two-years by a dedicated trainer, similar to an NVQ level college course.

“Covering topics such as machinery operation, health and safety, fork lift truck driving, practical DIY and warehousing processes, the programme has been designed to cover all of the aspects of work in a factory environment.

“The service users’ progress is assessed and monitored through a personal care profile which tracks their development through each module, and also considers how the individual’s social skills, communication skills and confidence improve throughout the course.

Established by a group of parents and carers in 1987, Blyth Star Enterprises was founded on the principle that everyone should have somewhere to live, somewhere to work and someone to care.

Through the provision of day services, work experience training programmes, life coaching and supported accommodation, Blyth Star Enterprises is actively helping over 300 service users to live more independently within their own communities.

Gordon Moore, chief executive officer at Blyth Star Enterprises, said:

“Many people living with mental health problems and learning disabilities often feel isolated from their local communities. 

“At Blyth Star Enterprises, we are dedicated to providing practical and innovative day services that replicate real working environments. We strive to provide a setting where our service users can gain valuable life experience and enjoy a real sense of purpose.

“We are incredibly grateful for all of the funding and support we’ve received towards the implementation of our new woodfuel and woodwork training programme.

“By continuing to create stimulating training and activity programmes which focus on personal development, Blyth Star Enterprises can help to equip more people living with mental health problems across Northumberland with the skills they need to progress on their journey from hospitalisation to independent living.”

Photo caption (L to R) from front to back: Blyth Star Enterprises chief executive officer, Gordon Moore, with Dan Hasse, James Hudson, Neil Hedley, Craig Bagnall and Jamie Henton at The Woodfuel Centre.