MP visits ground-breaking community project

published on 2 Apr 2014

Gill Bedford, Julie Elliott MP, Graham Wharton, Major Katrina Thomas and Major Darrell Thomas

Julie Elliott, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change and MP for Sunderland Central, heard how people in one of the UK’s most deprived areas are being empowered to achieve their full potential.

Southwick Community Project at Austin House Family Centre is based in one of the UK’s top five per cent most deprived areas. The project offers support to everyone ‘from the cradle to the grave’, maintaining a sense of ‘family’ and of ‘belonging’ at the heart of the community. The staff team recognise each person is valuable and can make a difference in their community, whether volunteering or receiving assistance.

Julie Elliott MP with mothers attending breakfast and Majors Katrina and Darrell Thomas

The programme includes everything from organised activities to educational courses and employment advice services, which have developed in line with community needs. There are five well-attended breakfast clubs – open to children and their carers – which started as a result of a parent entering the building to get warm before the school opened.

Les Dent Major Katrina Thomas, Major Darrell Thomas, Julie Elliott MP David McGowan and James Fox

Julie Elliott MP heard first hand people’s experiences of living in Southwick and the support they receive. She also spoke with staff members about issues surrounding welfare and sanctions.

Project Manager Graham Wharton said: ‘We appreciate Julie visiting Southwick Community Project and taking the opportunity to meet our community.

‘We’re committed to building up our community in Southwick. While some describe the area as deprived, we see hope and potential and are dedicated to offering support and practical help, to raising people’s aspirations and empowering people to achieve their full potential.’

Project manager Graham Wharton and Julie Elliott MP

Julie Elliott said: ‘Today I had the pleasure of visiting Austin House in Southwick. It was great to meet so many people from the local community who use the centre and to listen to what an important role it plays in their lives. I welcome the work The Salvation Army does in providing opportunities for the people of Southwick and the wider Sunderland community.’

In addition to providing services to the community, Southwick also acts as a hub, signposting and helping people access relevant agencies as necessary.