To celebrate 15 years of inspiring philanthropy here at Somerset Community Foundation, we're going to look at 15 people, groups and organisations with whom we have had long standing relationships and changed Somerset for the better over a sustained number of years.
3. ESCAPE Support Group
ESCAPE Support Group aim to extend opportunities and support to families of children who have additional needs within Somerset. They have been organising relaxed and motivating days out for local families since their inception 17 years ago, and Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) have been supporting ESCAPE for a decade now.
Some families find that having a child with a disability can be isolating and stressful. Not only are families coping with the day-to-day (sometimes 24/7) care of their children, they are often worrying about financial pressures. According to Contact a Family, it costs up to three times as much to raise a disabled child as it does to raise a child without disabilities. ESCAPE aim to fund at least 50% of their activities through fundraising and applying for grants, subsidising the cost of their activities so that they are more accessible to families in all financial circumstances.
By joining ESCAPE, members are surrounded by other families who know what it is like to have a child with specific needs, and can feel relaxed in company where they don’t feel they have to justify themselves or their children. They can just be themselves and have fun, which promotes emotional wellbeing for all.
SCF supported ESCAPE with an initial grant from the Local Network Fund ten years ago. Our funding has helped sustain the groups running costs, activities and, most recently, a Christmas lunch.
Over the years ESCAPE has grown its membership base to over 150 local families who take part in their regular activities that include swimming sessions, coffee mornings, lunches and a Hub Club. The group also organises one-off events such as weekends away and trips to the theatre.
You can read more about ESCAPE Support Group and their amazing work in Somerset here on their website.
2.Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments
In 2002, just after Somerset Community Foundation had been launched, we were on the cusp of securing the contract to deliver the Government’s Local Network Fund. Our only problem was that we had no track record in delivering grants!
This was when Tauntfield stepped in, making their first donation to SCF. From that donation we were able to make our first grants, including one to the newly formed Escape Support Group, a charity that works with families with disabled children in Taunton.
Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments are a brilliant example of a successful local business, owned and run by local people with a genuine passion for Somerset. They have continued to support us over the past fifteen years, gradually building a significant endowment fund worth over £120,000.
An endowment fund appealed to them because it demonstrates a simple way of making a longterm commitment to communities in Somerset.
Many local charities have now benefitted from grants funded through the Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments Fund, including the Trident Youth and Community Centre, Outdoor Challenge, Ten Communities Youth, On Your Bike, North Taunton Partnership and the Conquest Centre.
Elizabeth Williams, who is to this day a Director of Tauntfield and was one of our founding trustees, has told us: "I am delighted that, through Somerset Community Foundation, we have been able to help some of the people of Somerset and know that our contribution is being managed and awarded to those in genuine need."
Our connection with the firm continues to this day. Richard Lloyd, Executive Chairman of Summerfield Developments, is currently a trustee of SCF, and Tauntfield has agreed to sponsor our Sing for Somerset Christmas carol service this year. More importantly, though, their fund will continue to make a lasting difference in local communities for generations to come.
1. Back on Track
Back on Track is a local, volunteer-led charity that has transformed the lives of young people ever since they started, with a ‘Local Network Fund’ grant from us, just over ten years ago.
Back on Track works with local schools and agencies to help young people with complex needs and sometimes chaotic lives to develop skills through contact with horses, hosted by local commercial stables - a really great example of what can be achieved when you make the most of the assets Somerset has to offer. You can read more about Back on Track's work in a case study, here.
One of the things that has impressed us most about Back on Track, and enabled us to continue supporting them, has been the data they have collected through their partner schools that participate in their eight week programmes. This data has provided us with good evidence of the impact they are making, in a very simple format. Each young person is ranked on a number of measures, both at the start of a programme and again at the end, on a simple scale of 1-10.
The first grant we awarded to them – which was also the first grant they had ever received – was just over ten years ago, when Back on Track was a pilot project launched by the British Horse Society. It has since grown to become an independent charity, led by Sally Whittaker and her small team of dedicated volunteers, supported with just £25,000 in grants from Somerset Community Foundation.
Sally said: “ We could not have achieved all that we have done for the children of Somerset, without the help, generosity and advice, which was freely given by the trustees and staff at Somerset Community Foundation. I'd like to thank them very much.”
That funding from Somerset Community Foundation will have supported around fourteen Back on Track sessions and benefited over 100 young people from Somerset.
Recently, Florence Rice, a sixth form student at Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar spent some time with us here at Somerset Community Foundation, on a work experience placement. For one of her tasks, we asked her to analyse some raw data from a sample of the monitoring forms, to give us, and Back on Track, a clearer picture of the change they are achieving. The resulting graphs illustrate the significant progress made by the young people who took part.
What we found is that overall the programme increases young people’s self-esteem, their ability to work with others and even the simple pleasure that comes from having fun with others.