Advertisement feature with the Aviva Community Fund.

Did you spot my recent social posts supporting the Aviva Community Fund? To help build stronger communities, Aviva offers local groups the chance to apply for much-needed funding for community projects in areas just like yours!  

About Aviva Community Fund

The fund allows local groups to enter for the chance to secure funding which ranges from up to £1,000 to £25,000 – money that can make a real difference. Local projects enter in one of three categories; Health & Wellbeing, Environment or Skills for Life. You can then have your say, by voting for the groups which you feel will benefit most from the funding. The funding is then awarded to groups up and down the country to help future-proof them for whatever tomorrow may bring.

The Aviva Community Fund also helps provide ‘more than money’ support, with a range of toolkits, helping local groups to generate awareness for the great work they are doing! In this way, Aviva helps build stronger communities together, supporting groups from a grass-roots level. 

Meeting a Local Aviva Community Fund Winner

Zena with Aviva Community Fund Winner Our Place Team in Sutton Coldfield

I was given the exciting opportunity to be able to go and meet one of the community groups who received an award from the Aviva Community Fund. I had the task of finding out about the important work that the Our Place Community Hub do through their Advice Cafe and the difference the funding will make to the local community.

Today I’m sharing their story and the impact the Advice Cafe has on the local community in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. 

I went to meet the team based at the Our Place Community Hub, and what I discovered there was both heart-warming and inspiring on so many levels.

As I drove towards the offices of the Our Place Community Hub and the Advice Cafe I couldn’t help but notice that Sutton Coldfield was a pretty affluent area. The houses are large, and the cars are expensive, so my first question was why did the community need the support of the Advice Cafe?  I was becoming increasingly interested in finding out what was going on.

When I arrived, the bi-monthly Advice Cafe was in full swing, and the place was already busy with lots of people waiting for appointments to see the volunteer advisors. I soon realised this was a much-needed service in the area simply due to the demand I was seeing, first hand.

About the Advice Cafe

Zena with Advice Cafe Co-ordinator at Our Place Sutton Coldfield

The Advice Cafe is a drop-in service that provides support to the local community around issues such as benefits, legal complications, mental health and wellbeing, caring for someone and support to access employment. Anyone with an issue can visit the Advice Cafe to access their free support service.

This year, Aviva funding was awarded to the Advice Cafe to fund the role of the Advice Cafe Co-ordinator. Her role is crucial in making sure that everyone who visits the Advice Cafe gets seen and speaks to the most appropriate person possible. On the day I visited, 13 clients were seen, and they had a variety of different issues that they needed support with. 

I also got the opportunity to speak to a few of the people who were visiting the Advice Cafe to see the advisors. There were some common themes coming out of those conversations. The benefits advice given at the café was invaluable. I learnt how the Universal Credit system was very difficult to navigate and how the Advice Cafe helped them to access money they were entitled to.

The advice was even more beneficial to those in work, helping people to deal with changes in their circumstances and complete essential paperwork.

Without the help of the Advice café, these people would find dealing with their benefits very stressful and would probably find themselves without money to live on. 

Zena with service user from Advice Cafe in Sutton Coldfield

Additionally, I was hearing loud and clear from the people visiting the Advice Cafe was that there was no other community service like this in the area, and when I spoke to Kelly Round, the CEO, it was clear there was a reason for this.

The History

She confirmed to me that Sutton Coldfield was largely an affluent area but when she first moved here to work, she became very aware that some people weren’t getting the support they needed. She worked with Birmingham University to investigate why this was happening and discovered some shocking facts.

The national data was not reflecting the number of children living in poverty or people claiming benefits in the area.  When they spoke to local residents they found that people were reluctant to claim things like free school meals or benefits because of the stigma attached to accessing this service.

So, the Our Place Community Hub and Advice Cafe was born and from the moment the doors opened in 2011 they have never received any statutory funding for any of the services they deliver. That has presented some challenges along the way, but it also gives great scope for opportunity too. It allows the team to provide quality services to its clients without the restrictions that statutory funding can bring. 

With the help of awards like the one the Advice Cafe have received from the Aviva Community Fund they can continue to provide the support to people living in the local area that they need.  Running a third sector service for the community on this basis is an impressive achievement and I felt inspired by the dedication and commitment the team at Our Place had to continue to support the local community. 

Zena with Kelly at Our Place Community Hub

I also asked Kelly about her experience applying to the Aviva Community Fund, and she only had positive things to say. Some grant applications can take hours to complete, but Kelly estimated she had submitted her request to be considered for the Aviva Community Fund in around an hour. Being less bureaucratic than other grant applications, it gave her more time to focus on her role as CEO of Our Place Community Hub. 

She also commented on Aviva’s continuing support even after the award had been made. Aviva provides a Facebook Group for the successful community groups to join and share experiences and access advice on a range of topics from marketing and making successful grant applications. I had a sneak peek at the Aviva Community Facebook group and it was a very active group of likeminded people who are committed to helping their local areas

I, for one, am absolutely delighted that the Advice Cafe received an award from the Aviva Community Fund. I’m incredibly grateful for the time that Kelly and her team spent with me that day, whilst also delivering a much-needed service to their local community. 

Check out the 2018 Winners! 

The winners of the 2018 Aviva Community Fund have been announced – head over to the Aviva website to see which groups secured funding towards their projects! Visit https://at.aviva.uk/celebrate

#StrongerCommunities

11 COMMENTS

  1. I love that Aviva is less bureaucratic than other grant applications because I know that it this is what usually puts people off, and makes some of them never even finalise the application process.
    Zena, your smile is absolutely precious!

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