A county charity has hit the jackpot, with a half a million pound funding boost.
Northumberland County Blind Association (NCBA) based in Morpeth has been awarded a whopping £495,921 from the Big Lottery Fund.
The cash will be used to continue 17 social inclusion projects, clubs and support groups for vision impaired people across the county.
It will also go towards the development of a countywide information service, as well as the provision of an IT course using specialised adaptive technology and equipment for people with sight loss.
NCBA chief executive Lorraine Dryden said: “This is fantastic news – a massive, bright ray of sunshine in what has been a number of very grey, lean years.
“NCBA currently supports over 5,000 vision impaired people across the county through both voluntary and statutory support and rehabilitation services.
“Due to local government financial constraints we have received no uplift for service provision over the past five years and competition for grant funding is fierce.
“It’s good to know that funding is secured for the next five years.”
The charity’s Key Communications project is supported by two new positions – an Information and voluntary services manager and an IT tutor, who will work alongside a volunteer co-ordinator and more than 100 volunteers to improve access to information and advice.
The five-year programme aims to ensure that vision impaired people become less socially isolated and improve independence, choice and control by learning how to use low vision aids, IT and the internet.
Mrs Dryden said: “We are fortunate in having a head start in service delivery as the hub of the organisation operates from a fully accessible, purpose-built resource centre in Morpeth, although our support is also delivered in a person’s own home on a one-to-one basis and at clubs and support groups countywide.”
To learn more about the NCBA scheme, or enlist as a volunteer, contact the association on (01670) 514316.
Ms Dryden added: “In all areas of life, and whoever you are, communication is absolutely key. Without effective communication, choice and control over day-to-day and major decisions becomes limited and people can easily become socially isolated, feel excluded from society and lack independence and confidence.”
The grant was awarded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme. It was one of three awards in the county, amounting to a total of £1.1million, with the Women’s Health Advice Centre in Ashington and Berwick Citizens’ Advice Bureau also receiving support.
In addition, £389,218 was given to Northumbria Coalition Against Crime to support young people at risk of offending, and £199,894 was awarded to Creative Arts North East to address isolation of older people.