A Northumberland charity is getting ready to welcome more local people through its doors after securing funding from regional employer The Banks Group to improve access to its outdoor community space.

Real Deal Plus provides a wide range of services and support to disadvantaged people in South East Northumberland on issues including food poverty, mental health support, life skills training, work experience and homelessness.

The charity is using a £10,000 grant from Banks Community Fund to remove old brickwork and a series of rusted garage doors at the rear of its Station Road headquarters in Ashington, which was formerly the town’s old police station, and replace it all with new entrance gates that will both improve access to and enhance security around the external space.

Ashington-based AME Building Contractors have been commissioned to carry out the work, which is due to start in June.

The charity is hoping that the work will be completed by the start of the school summer holiday and has a number of events and activities planned for when it’s finished, which it’s hoping will see even more local people making use of what it has to offer.

It’s the second time that funding from the Banks Group has enabled Real Deal Plus to make major improvements to its headquarters, with a £10,000 grant given in 2017 supporting work at the front of the building.

New block paving and a concrete ramp was put in place, while the building’s original railings, which were taken out during World War Two for use in aiding the war effort but then never used, were put back in place.

Real Deal Plus has seen demand for its services growing quickly over the last few years, with the staff’s work supported by more than 50 local volunteers, including some of the clients that it helps.

It runs a dance studio, coffee bar, community café and foodbank at its Ashington Life Centre, as well as a wide-ranging youth programme for local 10-18 year-olds, a furniture supply scheme and a job club.

Kathryn Falcus, general manager at Real Deal Plus, says: “We took over the old police station nine years ago and have made lots of improvements to the building’s exterior since then, but we’ve not yet been able to afford to give the rear of the building the attention it needs.

“The outdoor space we have there is very well used for a lot of different activities, but the surroundings are rather an eyesore and the old garage doors that we have to use to gain access don’t make it easy for everyone to get in.

“Putting a new set of access gates will make it easy for everyone to enter the area when we’re open, while it will also provide a much nicer view for our neighbours, and it will also help keep the building much more secure.

We’re excited to see work starting soon and have lots of plans for celebration events when everything’s been completed, at which we’d love to see more local people joining us.

“With demand for our core services rising all the time, along with the cost of providing them, making these changes would have been well beyond us without Banks stepping up to support our work once again, and we’re really grateful that they’ve been able to make another very generous contribution to our work.”

Jamilah Hassan, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “Real Deal Plus reaches so many different parts of the local community and offers unwavering support to people across South East Northumberland when they need it the most.

“We’ve worked in this part of the county for well over four decades, and this is the latest in a long line of hugely worthwhile community projects that we’re proud to have been able to support.”

Anyone from a community group close to a Banks Group project who is interested in applying for funding from the Banks Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via fundmanager@bankscommunityfund.org.uk

or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.