A long-established Northumberland charity is enhancing its employability work across the county with the help of a four-figure grant from Newcastle Building Society.

Community Action Northumberland runs six employment hubs right across the rural parts of the county, from Haltwhistle, Hexham and Prudhoe in the west across to Morpeth, Amble and Alnwick, and delivers a wide range of employability support at each one to help local people overcome the different barriers they’re facing to getting into work.

The hubs operate on a drop-in basis and offer support tailored to each individual’s needs, which could include gaining internet access to carry out job searches, providing one-to-one support with IT skills, planning job-seeking activities, and addressing any underlying health and social welfare issues that may limit individuals’ ability to seek work.

Community Action Northumberland is now using a £3,000 Newcastle Building Society grant to help meet the various ancillary needs of local jobseekers, from covering clothing and transport costs for interviews, assisting with skills training, managing digital inclusion needs and paying for refreshments at each of its hubs.

The funding has been provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Established in 1951, Community Action Northumberland works to benefit and help sustain rural communities in Northumberland by promoting rural issues, empowering communities and delivering solutions to specific issues within them, including climate change.

It partners with Bridge Northumberland on the design and delivery of its employability services, and as well as working from its six permanent hubs, it also holds pop-up events in rural communities where there is a particular need for its involvement.

Julia Plinston, community development work at Community Action Northumberland, says: “We set up our first employment hub in Haltwhistle six years ago in order to meet a lot of local demand in that area and very soon found that we were being asked if we do something similar in other rural parts of the county.

“People in the countryside can face additional difficulties when searching for work over and above those faced by their peers in urban areas, such as fewer local opportunities, higher travel costs, less access to essential support services and poor internet connectivity.

“We help our service users overcome these barriers by providing a warm and supportive environment in which they can feel able to relax, can speak to other people facing similar situations to their own and can access the information and advice they need to get themselves into employment, training or a volunteering role.

“As well as making this sort of immediate impact, the holistic approach we take also brings benefits to our services users in terms of building self-confidence and feeling valued, which can be equally important to their long-term prospects.

“The funding provided by Newcastle Building Society for our work will make a significant difference to the breadth of support that we can provide at a time when it has never been more needed.”

Donna Stubbs, community manager at Newcastle Building Society adds: “Community Action Northumberland is making a big different to the lives of hundreds of people living in our rural communities across Northumberland, as well as to their confidence and general well-being.

“Much of the Society’s grant-giving during the pandemic has focused on projects which improve employability prospects for people across our heartland area and Community Action Northumberland provides a great example of how North East charities across the region are tackling this important issue.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.