Scooting along thanks to Wheels2Work!

Getting to work was proving to be a real problem for 16 year old apprentice plumber Tom of Flitwick.

After starting a plumbing apprenticeship in August 2010, it soon became clear that public transport was not going to be able to get him to his company’s yard in Milton Ernest by 7am every morning.

Getting to Kempston for his day release course was not straightforward, and finding his way to work sites around the area was even more of a challenge.

So Tom applied for a Scooter Loan from the Wheels2Work Scheme, and is now finding it much easier to get where he needs to be!

Wheels2Work co-ordinator Bob Hughes said ‘I am delighted that Tom is fully benefitting from the scheme, not only enabling him to get to and from work, but also extending his social networks.’

Interested in a Scooter Loan?

Read on to find out if you could benefit too….

What’s it all about?

The Scooter Loan Scheme  provides successful applicants with a 50cc scooter complete with comprehensive insurance, road tax, safety equipment and normal servicing costs for up to nine months. This gives people the time they need to find an alternative transport solution that meets their needs in the future.

Am I eligible?

There are some criteria that you have to meet to be eligible for a Scooter Loan.

  • You have to be of working age (16-64) with priority to those aged 16-21
  • You must live in Central Bedfordshire
  • You must have limited or no access to transport to work, education or training
  • You must have a provisional or full driving licence

Will I get training?

Once you’ve applied and been accepted, and after you have provided references and an insurance declaration, you must then go on to complete the free Compulsory Basic Training Course and Rural Ride Training.

What will it cost?

You have to pay a monthly wear and tear payment, petrol and oil costs.

Anything else I have to do?

You must meet with a Wheels2Work representative on a monthly basis for a vehicle inspection, and provide monthly updates on your progress at finding alternative transport when your loan period ends.

If you think you meet the criteria, or for more information please contact Bob Hughes, Wheels2Work Co-ordinator at Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity on 01234 832646, or visit the Wheels2Work website.

Offenders Payback in Central Bedfordshire

Community Payback offenders picking up litter

Communities in Central Bedfordshire are benefiting from a range of services that are being carried out by offenders, who have been ordered to complete Community Payback for their crimes.

Community Payback is a tough and rigorous punishment where convicted offenders carry out up to 300 hours of unpaid work, supervised by Bedfordshire Probation Trust.  This is for the benefit of the local community, and forces offenders to repay the community for the wrong they have done.

Following a request by the Community Safety Partnership, offenders will be carrying out Community Payback in Melton Walk, Houghton Regis for several weeks. They will be cleaning up the overgrown pathways and cutting back overhanging trees and branches for local residents.

Nominate a project…

Local projects looking to benefit from Community Payback can be community based or for the good of a charity or charitable organisation. 

For more information on how to nominate a Community Payback project, go to the Bedfordshire Probation website, or phone them on 01582 735153.

Read “Mary’s” real life story…

“Three years ago I did not believe I was worth anything…”


Community Payback provides demanding punishment for offenders, benefits to the public and significant opportunities for skills development.

Read on to see how Community Payback changed the life of ex-first time offender ‘Mary’* for the better.

“Three years ago I went to court and was given a community order. After speaking to probation and having a pre-sentence report written, explaining why I had felt forced to do what I had done, I was told I would be completing my unpaid work at a hostel for young women.

On my first day I can honestly say that I was terrified. Despite suffering years of domestic abuse, fleeing the town where I had grown up, bringing my three young children up on my own, putting myself through university and having to resign from my teaching job that I had worked so hard to achieve, that first day was definitely the lowest point of my life.

I guess most people would be embarrassed about having to do unpaid work in the community, having to deal with professionals on a daily basis who knew nothing about you apart from what you had done wrong. It wasn’t embarrassment that I found hard though, I was ashamed. I agreed whole heartedly that I had done wrong and deserved to have to repay a debt to society but knowing that the people who I was working for knew nothing but the worst thing about me was very hard.


I walked into the placement feeling as though I had ‘criminal’ tattooed on my head and I expected to be treated as such. I felt that I did not deserve anything more than this. Neither myself, nor my family had ever been in trouble with the law prior to this so I had no idea what to expect after I had been sentenced.

My first thought about the hostel staff was just how at ease they were with me; it was not what I expected. I was given a variety of jobs to do which I did to the best of my ability, no matter what it was. I left after that first day with a huge sense of relief as no one had even noticed the glaring ‘tattoo’ on my forehead.

For the first few weeks I kept my head down and did whatever staff asked me to. I spoke as little as possible, terrified of what they might ask me. But they were so supportive and encouraging that I eventually began to relax around them and even talked about what I had done wrong.

‘Slowly I became part of the team…’

As the months passed I slowly became a part of the team and the residents saw me as an additional member of staff. The more time I spent in the hostel the more my confidence grew and I was able to accept what I had done without constantly putting myself down about it. I began attending the hostel on more days a week and began to become more involved with the residents, helping out with activities and chatting to them.

As the end of my unpaid work hours came around I spoke to one of the staff members about staying on as a volunteer. Previous to this period I had always been in work or education and my unpaid work had quickly become my lifeline. For one day a week I was able to leave the house with a purpose and was able to help other people out in the meantime.

I am sure that it’s not the intention for unpaid work to be enjoyable but spending time with the hostel staff and residents was the highlight of my week, even when I was cleaning toilets or spending hours sweeping up leaves. I felt like I was repaying society and that felt good.

I was welcomed back to the hostel as a volunteer. I began to spend more and more days there and became more involved with the running of the hostel. I was taken under the wing of the assistant project worker who gradually trained me in her job. She did such a good job that when she handed in her notice I carried on her role as assistant, completing all of the tasks that she had. The staff had such faith in my abilities to complete the tasks that I eventually began to believe that I could do them too.

‘I applied for the job…’

I was persuaded by the staff to apply for the job. However all of the old doubts came back. I felt like I was completing that first day again and the ‘tattoo’ was there again for all to see. With their support and encouragement I applied for the job as part time assistant Project Worker.

I was so nervous in my interview that I felt for sure that I didn’t stand a chance at the job, even reminding the CEO why I had been at the hostel in the first place – as if she didn’t already know!

When I was told that I was going to be hired as an assistant Project Worker I felt like all of my Christmases had come at once. I never thought for a second that I would get the job, even though I had been proving for several months that I was capable of it.

‘My confidence, my feet and my voice…’

I was moved to a different hostel which knocked my confidence to begin with but I soon found my confidence, my feet and my voice. Within three months I had been promoted to full time project worker, a role that I have to this day and a role I relish.

Three years ago I did not believe that I was worth anything and now I spend my days working with young people who feel that way, and helping them to understand just how much they have to offer. I love my job and still can’t believe just how I got it.”

*Name has been changed

Have you got the X-Factor?

 Two punk rockers with guitars jumping in the air

Are you or your band ready to unleash yourselves on the public?

Do you reckon you’ve got the X-Factor, but don’t want to bother with Simon Cowell?

Do you just want to go and hang out somewhere warm on a Friday night?

Then get yourselves along to the new Youth Café at The Jenkins Pavilion in Sandy.

The café was the brain child of young people Joe Keir, Tom Jiggins, Tom Hull, Pete Rogan, Nick Pates and Henry Ulings from Sandy. They worked with Clare Bissell from the Integrated Youth Support Systems (IYSS) Team at Central Bedfordshire Council to put their ideas into action.

Open mic…

Opening night on 10 October 2010 saw around 60 young people dropping in to the café to listen to live music performed by Brian Andrews and Gemma Hall. This success has inspired the organisers to host regular ‘open mic’ nights so young people can practice performing and show off their talents.

Even if you’re not the next budding 1 Direction, if you’re aged 13+ the youth café still gives you a place to go and hang out on a Friday night from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

It has a wide range of food and soft drinks on offer, with prices matched to suit young people’s pockets. You can even play on the café’s Nintendo Wii!

Joe Keir, Central Bedfordshire Member of Youth Parliament  (MYP) and one of the young people involved, said: “It’s great to see so many young people coming to this café. I’m really excited about this project as already we are showing that young people can and will organise positive activities for themselves.

“The café has recently received funding from the Bedfordshire & Luton Crime Beat which aims to provide a safe, warm and friendly space for young people to spend time, as well as the opportunity to volunteer and gain work experience.”

Why not get involved…?

If you’d like to join the 15 or so volunteers that help run the sessions, then contact Clare Bissell, Youth Worker, Central Bedfordshire Council.

If you’d like to find out more about Crime Beat, or if you think a young people’s group could benefit from its help then contact Jane Regan, Community Safety Youth Officer, Central Bedfordshire Council.

Winter Warnings

Lit candles and christmas baubles

When winter draws near so do additional dangers from fire in the home.

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service is warning people to take care as the temperatures drop.

  • Check your electric blanket is safe – old and worn ones should be replaced. If you’re not sure how to check your electric blanket, have a look at the easy to follow checklist at the fire service website.
  • Traditional open fires and more fashionable log burning fires are more popular now fuel prices are rising. Be sure to have your chimney swept before lighting up. 
  • Portable heaters pulled out of the cupboard in winter should be kept away from fabrics and furnishings and unplugged at night.
  • Power cuts – always keep a battery torch handy – and take care with candles and tea lights at ALL times.
  • Always have a working smoke alarm – it is recommended that you replace your battery at least once a year.
  • If you cannot fit your own the Fire and Rescue Service will do it for you  – call 0800 043 5042

It’s Christmas time – please celebrate with caution…

‘Tis the season to be merry’ – but make sure you and your guests stay safe and well.

  • Having a party? Make sure there are plenty of ashtrays inside or that people outside don’t drop lit cigarettes in wheelie bins.
  • Guests staying the night? Make sure everyone knows how to get out or where door keys are kept in case of fire in the night.
  • Lights, candles – take action! Keep Christmas candles away from furnishings and over hanging decorations.
  • Switch off Christmas lights at night.
  • Stuck for that special gift? Buy and fit someone a smoke alarm – it could save their life.

For more information visit the Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service website.

Compact Advice

The Compact is an agreement between the public sector and voluntary and community groups in Central Bedfordshire.

Voluntary and Community Action and Community and Voluntary Service have produced a guidance pack for public bodies currently funding the voluntary and community sector.

The guidance recognises the unprecedented financial pressure that public sector organisations are under, and offers advice on Compact compliance when funding is being reviewed.

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All Aboard the Ghost Train!

Creepy capers and fiendish family fun were just the ticket on the Marston Vale Line (Bedford – Bletchley) on 29th October 2010, as the annual Ghost Train rolled into town!

Organised by the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership, the Fancy Dress Express was busy with a large number of children in an amazing variety of ghoulish costumes. 

All children in fancy dress were given a special goody bag on the train, and entertainment was provided by a local face painter and balloon modeller.

Stephen Sleight, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership Officer, said, “The Ghost Train was one of most successful Community Rail Partnership events to date with four popular trains, and many families taking the opportunity to travel on the Marston Vale Line for the first time.”

Community Rail Partnerships

The Marston Vale Railway was officially designated a Community Railway in November 2006. Community Railways adopt a different approach to managing the less well-used rail routes in the UK, by encouraging local people to use and become involved in their local railway.

This is led by Community Rail Partnerships, who work to ensure the future of these vital rail services can be secured, and people can rediscover their local railways.

The Community Rail Partnership  has 4 aims:

  • To improve conditions for existing users of the rail service
  • To encourage new people to use the line
  • To increase the number of people using the line for work and leisure
  • Ensuring the line has a long and financially stable future

By taking a community-led approach to this work, it’s hoped that local communities can be encouraged to become more involved in their local railway.

For more information please contact Stephen Sleight, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership Officer, c/o Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity on 01234 832645, or visit the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership website.

Photo courtesy of Cathy Malcolm.

Carers Art Exhibition in Central Bedfordshire

Carers art image

If you care for relatives, partners or friends who are ill, frail, disabled or have a mental health or substance misuse problem, then you are a carer.

From 12 November 2010 to 6 January 2011, the Gallery at Priory House, Chicksands will be hosting an exhibition of art by local carers.

Carers have been supported by Central Bedfordshire Council working with Carers in Bedfordshire to take a break from their caring role, meet other carers and develop new skills and interests through courses in art and photography.

Local art, local skills

Cllr Mrs Carole Hegley, Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care at Central Bedfordshire Council said: ‘Carers are at the heart of families and communities because of the vital role they play in providing support to some of the most vulnerable people in Central Bedfordshire. The Council is delighted to host this exhibition which recognises and celebrates caring, and also showcases the artistic skills of local residents.

One of the carers commented: ‘I took part in the art project last year which re-invigorated my passion for photography which had lapsed for many years. Photography gives me an opportunity to escape my caring role for a few hours per week.’

For more information please contact James Robinson-Morley Lead Commissioner (Carers Service User Engagement) for Central Bedfordshire Council.

Advice for Carers

You can find out more about being a carer by visiting the Carers Direct website. This site gives carers advice and information about how to support their own emotional and physical well-being, as well as offering more practical advice on things such as money and legal issues and information on the support that’s available to carers.

A taste of Business Boot Camp

Are you a budding new business entrepreneur? Do you have a first-class business idea? Do you aspire    to be a high-growth business?

Learn all the key skills needed to start, run and develop a high growth business at the High Growth Business Boot Camp currently being run by Business Link

‘Boot Camp is an intensive two-day residential workshop for high-fliers with a business start-up idea that is destined for high growth,’ said Business Link Local Partnership Director Steve Benson.

‘Only those with a strong business proposition backed by sheer determination and a desire to succeed will make it through the application process. Those that do make it through will learn the most important skills needed for getting their business off the ground, and the Business Link team will equip you to achieve fast growth, while maintaining full control.’

Taster sessions

If you don’t want to apply for the two day boot camp just yet, you can attend a free short taster session to help you find out if your business idea has high growth potential and what skills you need to be successful.

Business Link is looking for up to 15 businesses that have either recently started or are in the planning stages that have the potential to turnover £500k a year by year three. Individuals should have the right attitude, and most importantly the ambition and desire to succeed.

To book a place on a free taster event visit the Business Link High Growth Business Boot Camp website or contact the Business Link events team on 0845 601 1000.

For further information please contact Steve Benson, Partnership Director on 07771 945532

Green projects grow Green Skills

 People planting

Have you ever wondered how a village pond is managed and maintained? Or how to create a public courtyard garden for the whole community to enjoy?

Bedfordshire and Luton Green Infrastructure Consortium  have been awarded funding of around £50,000 through the Chalk Arc  project to support local, community led projects around southern Central Bedfordshire and Luton.

We take a look at one of the projects that has benefited from the funding.

Green spaces outside the Downside Neighbourhood Centre  in Dunstable have been improved by volunteers who took part in a Green Skills project to improve the area.

The courtyard garden at the centre was designed through community consultation, and built by those on the Green Skills Project. It is now in regular use by visitors to the centre.

Green Skills

Green Skills is a programme aimed at people aged 19+ who are unemployed or in low-skilled jobs. It improves people’s social skills and employment prospects, as well as helping the environment.

Tracey, a volunteer on the project said ‘I learnt about things I never knew about before that I will be able to use myself in the future’.

Joint Neighbourhood Centre Co-ordinator Lisa Swales said ‘This project has brought a real feeling of community into the centre. Everyone has commented on what a professional job has been done and how they’re really looking forward to using the garden in the future.

Further work including planting Bedfordshire variety fruit trees and establishing a wildflower area is planned for the autumn and winter.

Even more projects…

Other projects that received funding have included…

  • Working with the local school and youth group in Toddington to improve the village pond, design an information board and install new benches
  • Volunteers from the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society have used funding to restore two sections of the Leighton Buzzard Railway route, and have transformed the track side into wildflower meadows.
  • Improving the village green and recreation ground at Tithe Farm
  • Recreating a dew pond at Whipsnade, with volunteers trained and equipped to manage the site

For more information contact Laura Kitson, Bedfordshire and Luton Green Infrastructure Officer or go to the Green Infrastructure Consortium website.

Picture courtesy of Groundwork Luton and Bedfordshire

Friday Night Footie Fun!

Playing football

If you fancy a bit of a relaxed 5-a-side kick about on a Friday evening, get yourself down to Pro Zone in Dunstable for ‘Friday Nite Footie!’

The sessions are really relaxed and informal, and if you’re aged 12 – 19 you can just turn up, have a kick about and play in 5-a-side teams. Sessions run from 7 – 9.30 pm every Friday at The Pro Zone.

The sessions are the result of young people in the area saying they wanted an informal sports project locally that they could get involved in. Youth workers from the Central Bedfordshire West Area Youth Service took them up on the idea, and the sessions now attract as many as 35 young people every week.

In addition to meeting different people, making friends and playing footie, there’s also the opportunity to chat to different agencies about things like sexual health, drugs and alcohol, personal safety or anything else you might be worried about.

Girls – although the sessions are currently mainly ‘male orientated’ you are very welcome to join in too! One female footie fiend enjoyed the whole Friday Night Footie experience so much that she’s gone on to join the Dunstable Ladies Team!

And for those that want to, there is the opportunity to complete an accreditation such as an ASDAN Award (which stands for ‘Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network’) with the support of the professional coach and youth workers – looking goooood on the CV….

Come along to a session – no need to book!

For more information contact Kevan Broom, Youth Worker, Central Bedfordshire Council on 07826 478567.