East Cambridgeshire Community Mapping Project

As part of the East Cambs local’s drive to give local communities a way of gathering and sharing information, we are looking for local community groups who would like to add their details to a new database and local map.

This database and map is at the early stages of its development and has scope to be used as a tool for connecting with other like minded groups to support one another and to find mutual solutions to local issues. This can also be used to guide individuals to activities, interests and support groups that are on their doorsteps and easy to access.

We are asking people leading such groups to complete this form –https://forms.gle/wdKNjWazHFDENCmw5

Once completed your details will be added to this google map link – https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?hl=en&mid=1fffCWKbbFLXtKoIyN-ItlazP0Gp_eqze&ll=52.3999580844662%2C0.305592649999995&z=11

This map can then be embedded on your website and or social media page.

If a group has multiple locations then currently a separate form will be required for each but we hope this can be changed in the future.

For any groups who may struggle to access the form please contact Christian.Swabrick@cambridgeshire.gov.uk and he can support you to submit your information.

An introduction to CHESS

The above video is from our recent zoom meeting with Parish Councillors and Clerks to introduce our CHESS (Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Service) project. If you would like to know more about this project and how your parish could be involved please get in contact with Lisa Chambers at lisa.chambers@cambsacre.org.uk

Need help with your energy bills?
CHESS project supports residents struggling to keep their homes warm

With the news that energy prices are set to rise for millions of households this spring, the Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Service (CHESS) is on hand to help residents in Northern Cambridgeshire reduce their energy bills.

“This price hike has been announced at a time when families are already struggling to pay their heating bills, due to the effects of Covid-19,” explains PECT’s Health and Wellbeing Lead Karen Igho. “Our project team is here to offer a free and impartial service to help households find their way out of fuel debt.”

She continues: “We know the next few months are going to be particularly difficult for many people, and we want to help as many local residents as we can to cut costs and carbon. We encourage individuals to check-in with their friends and family and refer them to our service if they need support staying warm this winter.”

The CHESS project was launched by two local charities – PECT and Cambridgeshire ACRE – who have teamed up to help improve the health and wellbeing of households who are living with, or at risk of, fuel poverty.

Cold, damp housing has serious impacts on our health and wellbeing. It increases the risk of developing respiratory illnesses – such as Covid-19 – plus cases of strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia, and depression. Right now, the mental and physical health issues linked with fuel poverty are further exacerbated by the effects of the national pandemic and lockdown.

Over the Christmas period, Citizens Advice announced that 2.1 million households were behind on their energy bills, a rise of 600,000 compared with before the pandemic. So the team’s help is needed more than ever before.

The aim of the CHESS project is to help households cut their heating costs by offering free and impartial advice on accessing home improvement grants, fuel debt relief, switching energy supplier, signing up to the Priority Services Register and finding solutions to damp and condensation.

The project is funded through the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme, please visit www.energyredress.org.uk for more details.

For more information, freephone 0800 8021773, email warmhomes@pect.org.uk or visit www.pect.org.uk/warmhomes


ACRE network celebrates 100 years of village halls

Village Halls Week 2021 will recognise the contribution England’s 10,000+ halls have made to rural communities since the 1920s

The campaign week – now in its 4th year – is set to take place 25 to 29 January and will feature online events, videos, podcasts, and blogs showcasing the history of village halls and the benefits they have derived for rural communities over the years.   

The initiative is being led nationally by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and echoed by the 38 county-based rural development charities which make up the ACRE Network.    

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Rural Evidence and Village Halls Manager said, “The past year has been one of the most challenging periods for village halls on record. Many closed due the government’s coronavirus restrictions, yet the volunteers who manage these buildings applied for emergency funding and put in place Covid Secure measures so they could carry on providing a safe space for their community when it was most needed. Village Halls Week 2021 is in many ways, a celebration of the fact these halls are true survivors!”  

Managed by volunteers, England’s 10,000+ village and community halls support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings and are routinely hired out for private parties and weddings. Some host community shops and post offices.

In a survey undertaken by ACRE last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals too are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.  

Phillip Vincent, Public Affairs and Communications Manager said, “The current national lockdown means we are having to doing things differently for Village Halls Week 2021. This will be an online affair but there’s still good opportunity for village halls to get involved and join us in celebrating all the work they do. We’ve published a programme that invites people to join online events, share stories on social media and sign a ‘doomsday book’ which will be a record of village halls in their centenary year.”

The campaign is being generously sponsored by Utility Aid, Norris and Fisher and Allied Westminster and is also featuring contributions from the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF).

Information about Village Halls Week 2021, including a programme is available from ACRE’s website.  

How we can help support people who are experiencing fuel poverty

While undertaking your normal volunteering duties in your community have you come across someone who is struggling to pay their heating bills? Or maybe you know family members and friends who are struggling to stay warm this winter? The newly launched Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Service (CHESS) is on hand to help residents in East Cambridgeshire with their energy bills and provide advice on how to keep warm.

Covid-19 has caused an unprecedented time of anxiety, financial instability, and feelings of isolation. Two local charities, PECT and Cambridgeshire ACRE, have teamed up to help improve the health and wellbeing of households who are suffering from, or at risk of, fuel poverty.

Cold, damp housing has serious impacts on our health and wellbeing. It increases the risk of developing respiratory illnesses – such as Covid-19 – plus cases of strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia, and depression. Right now, the health issues linked with fuel poverty are further exacerbated by COVID-19, putting an additional 200,000 households at risk.

Stuart Dawks, Director of Operations at PECT comments: “We feel that the CHESS project will make a real difference to households who have fallen into fuel debt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the next few months are going to be particularly difficult for many people and we want to help as many local residents as we can through this service.”

The aim of the project is to help households cut their heating costs by offering free impartial advice on accessing home improvement grants, fuel debt relief, switching energy supplier, signing up to the Priority Services Register and finding solutions to damp and condensation.

Kirsten Bennett, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire ACRE said “As part of this project we hope to recruit local volunteers to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the scheme within our communities, helping us to identity people in need of this support and advice.  Please consider supporting the CHESS project by volunteering to promote this scheme and refer people to us for the support they may desperately need.”

So how can you get involved?  We are looking for volunteers who might already be active in their communities, maybe as a volunteer driver, home support, delivering food parcels or a volunteer at the local community centre or library.  You are in a unique position where you may come across someone who is having trouble with heating their home or are now unable to afford to put the heating on. 

So how could you help? By being one of our volunteers you can refer people onto our scheme and actively promote this service within your communities.  We will provide you with a short training session to prepare you for this role and provide you with materials to hand out.

If you would like to support the CHESS project, and protect vulnerable households, we are currently recruiting volunteers to help identify households in need. For more information, contact 01353 865048, email enquiries@cambsacre.org.uk or visit www.pect.org.uk/warmhomes

This project is funded through the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme, please visit www.energyredress.org.uk for more details.

Local councils encouraged to harness the benefits of community business

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC), which represents England’s 10,000 local (parish and town) councils and 100,000 councillors, has launched The Good Councillor’s guide to community business to promote the opportunities that community businesses can create locally. The Plunkett Foundation wrote the guide in partnership with Power to Change (the independent trust that supports community businesses in England).

The guide is a comprehensive resource that will enable local councils to understand better how a community business could enhance their parish or town in a post-Covid society.

Community businesses are enterprises that are owned and run democratically by members of the community and others, on behalf of the community. They come in many forms, including shops, pubs, woodlands and anything which lends itself to community ownership. In addition to developing and safeguarding valuable assets and services, community businesses address a range of issues including isolation, loneliness, wellbeing, work and training. As well as bringing people together and attracting people to a local area, for every £1 spent in a business, a further 56 pence is spent locally as the money dissipates.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of local services has never been more apparent. However, the reality is that an increasing number of services are at risk of closure due to market forces, lack of funding, or due to the effects of the pandemic. This means that many residents, many of whom are dependent or vulnerable, are losing access to essential amenities. In these areas where there is a concern of services being lost, the community business approach is often a viable and sustainable solution.

This guide intends to provide the practical “how-to” knowledge behind a community business and inspire a new generation of businesses to open. Also, there is support available from all three partners including Plunkett Foundation, Power to Change and the National Association of Local Councils to ensure that councillors can access further expertise and resource to realise the ambition of setting up a community business in their area.

You can read the guide in full here.

East Cambs Community Fund open for applications

The East Cambs Community Fund grant application window will be open between 27 November 2020 and 8 January 2021.

The aim of this grant scheme is to support the development of new or existing community services and initiatives that improve the quality of life for residents living in East Cambridgeshire.

You can find details of the grant including eligibility criteria at https://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/finance/east-cambridgeshire-community-fund

If you have any questions or need more information please contact Stephanie Jones on 01353 665555 or email stephanie.jones@eastcambs.gov.uk.

Fundraising in Rural Communities: learn and share

Our colleagues at Cambridgeshire CVS are hosting an evening session on Thursday 10 December from 6pm to 7.30pm aimed at community groups to look at successful online fundraising ideas and other ways of raising finance beyond grant funding. This is an opportunity to hear from other community groups about:
• Running a successful crowdfunding campaign
• Hosting an online community fundraiser including raffles and competitions

There will also be a speaker from the Co-op to talk about their role in creating local forums to share resources and make things happen and a speaker on social finance and community share schemes which some communities have been able to utilise to save crucial community assets.

The session is a chance to hear what others have done, ask questions, share your own ideas and experience and influence the content of future CCVS sessions. The session is funded by South Cambridgeshire District Council so priority will be given to groups/communities from this area but it is anticipated that there will be space for groups from elsewhere in the County so please do register if you are interested.

For more information or to book a place(s), please visit https://www.cambridgecvs.org.uk/training-events/view/375