Outdoor activity centre looks to the future thanks to ScottishPower Foundation

02/03/2021

Bendrigg Trust plans to welcome those with hidden disabilities to its Adventure for All initiative after opening grounds to the local community during lockdown

An outdoor activity centre forced to close for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to provide much-needed support to disabled and disadvantaged people in Cumbria thanks to funding from the ScottishPower Foundation.

With most of the centre’s residential services paused since lockdown first began in March 2020, the Foundation – which supports charitable work throughout Britain – exceptionally allowed Bendrigg Trust to redirect a portion of a funding grant to cover core running costs such as maintenance and essential staff.

Prior to the pandemic, the centre had received more than £90,000 from the ScottishPower Foundation to launch a residential programme designed to support those with hidden disabilities.

In light of the financial strain caused by lockdown restrictions and forced closures, the Foundation allowed the centre to reallocate some of the grant to cover essential overheads – a move which has enabled the charity to support people who have been desperate to access safe accessible outdoor space throughout the pandemic. .

Despite not being able to offer its usual residential programmes, the team at Bendrigg made the choice to open the grounds throughout lockdown, allowing families with disabilities to enjoy socially distanced walks in the 15 acre grounds between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

After conducting surveys with their visitors, the high demand for families with disabilities to access a safe and accessible outdoor space became apparent and Bendrigg Trust made its sprawling woodlands available to those most in need. They also hosted its first ‘Winter Wonderland’ at Christmas – allowing over 70 families to enjoy a specially curated festive trail while adhering to social distancing guidelines. This allowed Bendrigg to remain an important part of the community and offer services to meet the needs of their beneficiaries while other activities were paused.

The remaining ScottishPower Foundation funding will still be used to welcome disabled people and their families to take part in residential courses at Bendrigg when it’s safe to do so – with the Foundation’s financial support making the courses affordable to all. The funding will also support staff to undertake training to  build on their awareness, knowledge and expertise to support those with hidden disabilities.

Martha Wood, Fundraising and Marketing Officer at Bendrigg Trust said “We’re so grateful for the ScottishPower Foundation’s flexibility in letting us reallocate some of the funding we received. This has been instrumental in allowing us to keep a small team of staff working react to the need of our beneficiaries and offer what services we can safely to support them through an extremely difficult time.  It also means we can reopen our doors when it’s safe to do so.

While it has been devastating to have had to close our doors for the best part of a year, we knew we had to make the most of our vast woodlands.

“Many of the families who join us on our residential programmes don’t have access to safe outdoor space or a garden to enjoy. It seemed like such a simple solution to let people book a slot to explore the grounds and enjoy everything nature has to offer, and from the feedback we’ve had it has been a huge source of support.

“We recognise that now, more than ever, the individuals and families we work with need some respite and something to look forward to. We’re so excited for the day we can roll out our Adventure for All programme. Although we know finances are tight for many just now, thanks to the backing of the ScottishPower Foundation we’ll be able to subsidise the costs and make our residential courses accessible to all.”

Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee at the ScottishPower Foundation, said: “Even though the Bendrigg Trust has been financially impacted by the pandemic, the people and families it supports have remained the team’s first priority throughout, and that is truly admirable.

“The decision to open the grounds has given many vulnerable people and the wider community access to a safe space where they can get some fresh air and enjoy exercise – something that is so crucial to our mental and physical health at the moment.

“It’s great the Trust is continuing to support so many people while its normal service delivery is on hold and we’re proud to have been able to help with that. We’re so excited to be playing a part in the centre’s Adventure for All programme and can’t wait to see the benefits it brings once it can get up and running.”

During 2020, the ScottishPower Foundation distributed £1.2million worth of funding to charitable causes for the advancement of education, environmental protection, the arts, culture and science as well as the prevention of poverty and support to disadvantaged communities.

Further information on the Foundation can be found at www.scottishpowerfoundation.com

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