Last month I visited Catherine Russell, who runs Bradford Works. This project was set up by Shipley College who work in partnership with local organisations to deliver horticultural projects in the local area. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise supporting the development of local unemployed people into work through grounds maintenance and landscape management contracts.
Bradford works is now well established and has responsibility for many local greenspace areas, including places Bradford Council used to maintain but can no longer do so due to budget cuts.
They work closely with another social enterprise in the Shipley area, Northcliffe Environmental Enterprises Team (NEET). Also a charity, NEET is located at Northcliffe Nurseries. Starting out as “a couple of allotments and a polytunnel” the project has grown to occupy a huge site containing; large scale heated propagation house, commercial size polytunnels, a garden centre, cafe, wildlife garden, outdoor classroom (which is used by local school groups) and a wood workshop.
Making full use of these facilities NEET provides real work opportunities for in a genuine work setting for people with learning disabilities. People attending the project do so through their support packages and making use of self-directed budgets they choose to attend NEET, leading to a great demand for the service, which is surely the best measure of success.
Whether it sits comfortably or not we are currently in challenging and changing times in regards to our traditional health care, social care, educational and local authority services. What I witnessed at these services was how small organisations can find a role in providing these services to a high standard whilst understanding, including and offering opportunities to the people who are traditionally regarded as the most vulnerable in society.
Also worth noting is that before I returned I had a great lunch, in fact the best meal I have had out in a long time, at Saltaire Canteen Pay What You Feel (#PWYF) cafe in Saltaire. Using food items that supermarkets would have thrown away they create some great meals. There is no printed menu, as it changes depending on what ingredients they have available. Drinks are priced, in order to cover stock replacement, but for the meals you a given an envelope in which you pay what you feel the meal was worth or what you can afford. I fully recommend it. http://saltairecanteen.co.uk/
Bradford Works: http://divabradford.org.uk/organisation.aspx?ID=2713