We were recently invited to an inspiring and informative supporter evening to celebrate the Prout Bridge Project – a Beaminster charity that has grown out of Beaminster Youth Club. Rev Jo Neary one of the trustees of the Charity responsible for the link into the Beaminster Area Churches team, shared more about why the timing for the Charity is now, and the urgency that drives the team to deliver an inclusive, safe environment for people of all ages by providing a vibrant social hub at the heart of the community.
Here’s more about what she shared.
Beaminster town and the surrounding villages are places of contrast. From the outside we see wealth: house prices in West Dorset are 12.3 times the average earnings, we have two restaurants in town in the Good Food Guide and prices for renting a holiday cottage for a week in the area during the holiday season is well into four figures. West Dorset showcases history, culture and boasts the world-famous Jurassic coastline. Yet there are also pockets of deprivation, often hidden away on the edge of communities where people face particular challenges.
- Over 50% of the population in Beaminster is classed as “rural reality” meaning people who have moderate incomes and own their low cost homes. This means that most people who live in and around the town are not wealthy – they live in households with low to mid incomes, many are financially squeezed and not having a buffer can mean events like illness or an unexpected bill can tip them into financially struggling.
- According to the recent Dorset community foundation report, Hidden Dorset, many residents in West Dorset struggle to access housing and services due to poor public transport and the high cost of housing in relation to average earnings. The district has the most foodbanks in Dorset, there are 6 serving West Dorset of which one is run in Prout Bridge.
- The cost of travel prevents young people accessing further education and other opportunities. Funding for travel to school up to the age of 16 is met by the local authority. For 16 plus it has to be self funded, often costing £100’s per year.
- The average number of free school meals in the county is 15%, yet in our local schools we see higher numbers; 19% in the senior school and 25% at the primary school in Beaminster.
- Based on trend population projections the number of 5-15 year olds in our locality will increase by about 800 in the next 8 years. Yet since 2016 the council spend on youth services has reduced by £1million pounds, nearly half the budget is gone. Nationally the picture is just as bleak with 387 million pounds cut over the last 9 years. Services have been depleted particularly open services which anyone can attend. These cuts hit those from poorer backgrounds most because they are most likely to have engaged with the services in the first place.
The Prout Bridge Project has emerged with exciting ambitions to keep in place open access youth services for the town and surrounding villages. And they have higher aspirations too: to support the mental health of our young people and to create a community hub; to link together generations, to lower isolation and loneliness and to curate a space where everyone can be welcome, cared for and learn new things. And to provide a welcoming home for other services and charities that support local people, like the Food Bank and Citizens Advice.
Prout Bridge is an ambitious project. It requires support in many ways; commitment, energy, vision and financial underpinning. Yet it tackles head on some of the social challenges we find in our rural communities and enables aspirations to rise and flourish, helping each one of us to be the best we can be.
To find out more about this incredible cause, visit their website here: https://www.proutbridgeproject.com/