Thursday, 29 April 2010

Up on the roof

In the last week the roof has gone on to the new large extention at the rear of the building and the roof to the original building has been replaced. It was possible to reuse most of the orginal tiles but some new ones had to be purchased too. You can't see the roof from the ground because it is hidden behind a parapet and behind the parapet is a gulley. The gulley has been replaced too so that the roof will certainly be watertight now. At first we were in two minds about replacing the roof but it was in worse repair than originally thought and has been achieved at no great extra expense.

We share a chimney stack with the property next door, a small tree had sprouted from our side of it which has been removed and some brickwork relaid, Simon of _space who is managing the building project had some photographs taken of the neighbour's chimney for them to decide what they want to do about their side which is also in need of some repair. Apparently builders have a duty of care to neighbouring property owners to do things like that.

Simon is worried about the parapet. From the ground it looks OK but when you get up close, the top couple of feet lean outwards by two inches or so. There could be a danger of the coping stones on the top of the parapet falling. If it leaned inwards it would not matter so much because anything falling would fall into the gulley rather than crashing to the ground. Simon is going to ask the engineer if it is safe enough and if not what could be done about it.

By the time of the next site meeting in a week the windows should have been replaced - gradually the whole project is coming together. Thank you Simon and _space!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A Long Swim

The Swimathon took place last weekend. It is the biggest fund raising swimming event in the world. The Swimathon is a 5 kilometre swim which people can enter as individuals or as a team. I took part as an individual. The Swimathon takes place in pools all over the UK. I took part in the Sunderland Aquatic Centre which is an Olympic size pool so 5 kilometres was 100 50 metre lengths.

I have done the Swimathon before but not for several years and never in a 50 metre pool which means only half as many 'pushes off the side' and therefore a bit more work than a 25 metre pool. Of course I have been practising and regularly completed half the distance in one hour at a nice steady pace. On the day I was sharing the lane with 5 others all going at different paces, lots of overtaking and slowing down when it was not possible to get past.

So I was very pleased to complete the distance in 2 hours 6 minutes and 8 seconds which is actually a couple of minutes faster than the last time I did it some years ago.

The important thing is the sponsorship - I am delighted to have raised over £600 for the WEYES building project from donations to my Just Giving page, cash and Gift Aid. So a very big thank you to everyone who sponsored me - and there is still time to give, just click the Just Giving button on the right of this page.

Who knows what is next - perhaps the Great North Swim next year (1 mile in the open water of Lake Windermere) - very cold!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Disappointing news

Earlier this year we made two seperate applications to different rounds of the Social Enterprise Investment Fund. This was money for capital grants to social enterprises and charities from the Department of Health which was managed on their behalf by the Social Investment Business. When we saw the criteria for applications they seemed too good to be true and so timely for the WEYES building project. Writing the applications was time consuming but we got them in on time but then heard nothing.

The orginal specification said decisions would be made by the end of March, as that point came near we phoned the Social Investment Business who said there had been a lot of applications which were taking longer than anticipated to process so the timescale for decisions would be extended. However the person did say that if we had not already been contacted by an assessor it was unlikely that our application would progress any further. This week we received a letter to say we had indeed been unsuccessful. The frustrating thing is that no feed back was offered so we don't know where we went wrong.

By chance there was an opportunity to meet an adviser for the Social Investment Business this week and naturally we took the chance to ask what had happened. It seems the Social Investment Business normally deals with loans not grants and had been overwhelmed by the number of applications so most likely there had simply been too many. That is a reason of sorts but still does not provide any opportunity for us to learn how we might improve our chances of being successful in the future. It was no fault of the adviser that she expected to talk to us (and others) about loans but found herself answering the same point about the SEIF grant to several people.

We are continuing to make applications to Charitable Trusts for capital grants and have quite a few being considered at the present with more being prepared. I hope we will be more successful with them.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Third site meeting

The third site meeting took place at WEYES this morning. The weather has continued to be kind so progress is ahead of schedule. The huge extension on the back of the building is nearly built and the roofer has started work replacing the tiles on the main roof. Both the old and new roofs will be completed in the next couple of weeks, then the whole building will be weatherproof. After that the weather will not be able to delay progress at all.

Inside, the new walls and some of the ceilings have been put in place and the plasterers have started work from the top of the house. We need to decide colour schemes soon. The _space interior designer will be meeting staff and young people from the WEYES project to work those out. The idea is that the the whole of the inside of the building will be new and up to the minute but we will preserve and restore the outside of the building. _space have taken advice from a conservation expert about the stonework at the front of the building. There will be new windows in the whole place, mostly UPVC but at the front they will be wood in keeping with the age of the building. The company making the new steel fire escape at the back of the building has also offered to replace iron railings at the front of the building - the originals were probably removed during the second world war. We have applied to the Ironmakers Charitable Trust for a grant for that work.

Unfortunately there was another break-in a couple of weekends past, this time the thieves started to remove new copper cabling which had been installed in the attic. It would seem they were disturbed but we are worried they could return and cause more damage. If they do they will be surprised! It is a sad fact that building sites attract thieves and ours is at it's most vulnerable just now until the windows and doors are fitted.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Newcastle Youth Council

Today's Newcastle Journal launches the Newcastle Youth Council. I have been excited about this since Children North East bid for the contract last November which we won in February. I have not been able to speak about it until now, it is a really important peice of work for us.

Newcastle City Council want to go further than simply having a forum for young people, they actually want a Youth Council that has authority and independence. This is why they looked for an external agency to work with a steering group of young people to help them hold elections and then work with the elected young people to establish how the Youth Council will work. I am delighted that Children North East was chosen for this work. It seems to me it is exactly the sort of advocacy role that we should have and I hope that we will be able to more of it in future.

It seems to me that there are two key issues facing children and young people today, the first is poverty which is so damaging because it affects self-confidence and aspirations; the second is intolerance of young people which I have written about in this blog several times. Many Children North East services try to ameliorate the impact of poverty on families, I would like us to be doing much more to break down the dreadful intolerance that adults have of our young people, the Youth Council is a small start in that direction.