Our Day Centre in Barnstaple is at the heart of a network of community services looking after the most vulnerable in North Devon communities. Our Centre provides a home for Bridging The Gap (BTG) – a project that covers a number of different needs to create a holistic approach to helping people build better lives for themselves.

Seeing the individual in each situation

By taking a non-judgmental, case by case approach to their work, our team have successfully helped more than 150 people in the past 12 months to improve feelings of isolation, hopelessness, confidence and self-esteem through the integrated services available, from table tennis where clients can unwind while building social circles, to job assistance, debt advice, housing needs, fitness goals, and much more between. Anyone is welcome to attend the centre to take advantage of the free services available and build their individual plan towards achieving their goals with professional, caring assistance.

‘I come to use the centre for a number of reasons, including getting a nutritious meal every day, getting help with forms/phone calls, using internet access to complete job searches and use the gym. I would be lost without Freedom, [they’re] so helpful with paperwork and having someone to talk to about any problems in general life.’ One client said when asked why the Freedom Centre was important to them.

Digital Inclusion lessons provide a vital part of BTG service and in the past year alone 189 new clients accessed this aspect of BTG to gain employment-related support, further training, housing support and assistance with benefits. People are helped with C.V writing, setting up email accounts and generally understanding how to use the internet as a tool to gain access to different services and apply for work. This is further supported with a free internet café which clients can use to practice the skills learned in classes and research topics of interest such as health, social networking, transport, financial, and legal assistance.

Free hot meals five days a week

Possibly one of the most talked about services within BTG is the free hot three-course meal provision which is accessible five days a week from Monday to Friday to anyone who attends the centre. Between July 2015 and June of this year, 1269 individuals made use of this service allowing them to have at least one nutritious, freshly cooked, three-course meal during the week. Many comments on the high quality of the meals and the importance it has for them in their lives. As one Day Centre user commented ‘It’s a meal; I don’t have the mental capacity or money to cook.’ whilst another noted ‘It’s the only food I get.’

Making a difference locally

Whilst rates of homelessness and poverty-related issues in the UK have been gradually rising since 2012, in North Devon, statutory homelessness, long-term unemployment and drug misuse are lower than national averages and in some cases dropping. The support provided by us and our Bridging The Gap programme are undeniably part of the picture, showing that community heart and dedication to supporting the most vulnerable among us can make a big difference.

Regular donations keep these services free for the most vulnerable people in our communities