CoStars play leading role in turning Cwmbran community around

A Cwmbran social enterprise is at the heart of a project revitalising the lives of thousands of people living in one of the new town’s biggest communities.

The CoStar Partnership has turned Greenmeadow’s Threepenny Bit Community Centre into a vital hub since the charity was established 15 years ago, and been hailed as playing an ‘unprecedented’ role in reducing anti-social behaviour, building community spirit and pride and improving the health and wellbeing of residents.

An award of £50,000 from the EU-backed South East Wales Community Economic Development (SEWCED) programme towards the refurbishment of the Threepenny Bit Centre has meant the addition of a new interview room, reception area, storage, toilets and a teaching kitchen for cookery sessions.

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and run by a six-Valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen, SEWCED has invested £8.9m in 126 social enterprises since it began in 2010, helping to create 22 social enterprises and 123 full-time jobs.

“The Threepenny bit is a community hub,” said CoStar Partnership Manager Sue Baugh. “It gives help to those who face disadvantage, enabling them to provide for themselves and their families and build relationships and community cohesion, while also offering volunteering opportunities.

“The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation tells us that our community has high levels of income and employment deprivation, with a high percentage of residents in income-supported households, in receipt of pension credits and work tax credits,” she added.

“The SEWCED grant is enabling us to contribute to reducing the level of poverty by supporting the regeneration and economic sustainability of the community by building on residents’ capacity to take on and develop projects that can provide solutions to challenges they face.”

The Threepenny Bit provides a base for support agencies including a credit union, benefits advice, Communities First and alcohol counselling service Kaleidoscope, community support officers and housing associations.

CoStar runs a food bag scheme, a breakfast café, lunch clubs, adult education classes and fruit and veg bag and allotment-to-table scheme, with produce grown in an allotment used in the café and the surplus passed on to local residents. Torfaen Community RePaint diverts unused paint from landfill and redistributes it back into the community.

The Partnership also works with an accredited training provider to provide experience on a range of schemes, from NVQ placements to the Future Jobs Fund.

“The work that the CoStar Partnership has carried out in the Fairwater area has been unprecedented,” said Torfaen County Borough Council Social Enterprise Grants Manager Samantha Sollis.

“It is providing training, reducing unemployment, supporting people with health and other issues, introducing older residents to IT and encouraging interaction with recycling organisations, resulting In a more environmentally informed community.

“By arranging activities such as instructor-led walks, community clean-ups, physical activity sessions, cookery classes and The Veg Box scheme, it also improving the health and wellbeing of the thousands of residents in this large suburb of Cwmbran.”