Charity bags £100k grant

HIGH HOPES Christine Rayner with members of The Society for the Blind. (d523c439)
HIGH HOPES Christine Rayner with members of The Society for the Blind. (d523c439)

A charity for blind people could return to opening five days a week, thanks to a £100,000 grant.

The Society for the Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District was told last year Kirklees Council had awarded its next contract for rehabilitation services to the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf (BID).

As a result, the Whitfield Centre in Batley was reduced to opening just three days a week instead of five.

Three rehabilitation officers were axed and 19 members of staff were also given voluntary redundancy notices.

But the society, which provides services across our district, has been awarded a £100,000 grant by Kirklees Council.

Trustee and treasurer Terry Armstead said the money would help convert the facility into a healthy living centre.

“When we lost our rehabilitation contract it was all doom and gloom,” he said.

“The centre was put at serious risk but we spoke extensively with the council and they said that it may be possible to get a grant.

“After lots of conversations we have now got the grant which we hope will help us open five days a week again.”

The charity will get the money in three instalments.

It will receive £45,000 in the first year, £38,000 the year after and £18,000 in the final year.

The society hopes to become financially independent after receiving all the funding.

Mr Armstead said: “The money will help us branch out and help more people in the community.

“We will have activities for the visually impaired but also other disadvantaged people.”

The loss of contract meant many activities run by the centre, including bowling and swimming, were cut.

The Whitfield Centre, which is open from Tuesday to Thursday, saw the number of staff reduced from 22 to nine.

But centre manager Christine Rayner said the grant would give the charity a new lease of life.

She said: “We are adding more events all the time like coffee mornings, curling and drop in sessions every second Wednesday of the month.”

“We are really keen to engage with the community and want them to get involved.”

The society is also looking to recruit two new members of staff who will help run the activities. The centre’s annual meeting, which was to be held today, has been cancelled. Members will be notified of a new date soon.