Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Volunteering success set to continue in Leeds

Following the success of the 2010 Leeds Year of Volunteering, council chiefs have agreed to continue to celebrate and promote volunteering in the city during the 2011 European Year of Volunteering (EYOV).

A report to the council’s executive board in December received cross party support to use the European year to build on and embed the successes of the Leeds Year of Volunteering, and look at how volunteering can support the city in delivering some of its key priorities.

There was an explosion of volunteering activity last year, with over 1800 new people being placed in volunteering placements by the new Leeds Volunteer Centre, which opened on St Paul’s Street in January 2010. The number of new volunteers more than doubled as a result of the Leeds Year of Volunteering. Taking part in the European year will help to sustain this and increase it further. The focus in 2011 will be on encouraging organisations to create more volunteering places for the increasing number of people who want to volunteer.

Volunteering is important for Leeds. It helps communities to thrive and gives people that take part new skills, new confidence, better health and job opportunities. It is especially vital at a time when other resources are scarce. The economy is only recovering slowly, unemployment is on the rise and there are unprecedented cuts to public spending. Voluntary organisations need all the support they can get in order to continue their work in tackling some of the difficult issues faced by society.

Six main themes have been organised to celebrate volunteering in Leeds during 2011, each of which will be lead by a volunteer organisation. Each theme will run for two months and include taster volunteering sessions, celebration events and projects in local neighbourhoods to increase volunteering and support local initiatives. The themes will be managed by voluntary sector organisations in the city, including LATCH, Learning Partnerships, Groundwork, Space 2 and Healthy Living Network Leeds

Working links between volunteer organisations with our partner European cities will be developed through a European volunteering project. This project started in December when representatives from Brasov in Romania, Brno in the Czech Republic, Dortmund and Siegen in Germany and Lille in France took part in a three day working visit. The delegation attended the European volunteering conference at the Royal Armouries attended by over 140 people from Leeds and European voluntary organisations where they had the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with their local counterparts from Leeds. Each visitor was matched with a local voluntary organisation and encouraged to share ideas on how to raise levels of volunteering within their particular areas of work and how to tackle shared challenges. The project will enable ongoing cooperation and exchanges during the EYOV.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for volunteering in Leeds said:
“The 2010 Leeds Year of Volunteering was a great success, bringing the benefits and opportunities of voluntary work to a much wider audience than before.

“With an increase in recorded volunteering of over 200% last year, we are keen to keep the momentum going, which we is why we have agreed to support the European year.

“Volunteering is really important and has the potential to engage every citizen, neighbourhood and community in making a contribution to the city whilst also building skills, confidence and independence in each individual that takes part.

“We look forward to continuing our work with organisations in the voluntary sector like Voluntary Action Leeds, and to increasing the number of volunteering opportunities and volunteers in the city this year.”

Additional info

The objectives of the European Year of Volunteering in Leeds are:

• To sustain the improvements in volunteering made during 2010;
• To produce a volunteering strategy for Leeds, that will contribute to the city’s priorities;
• To highlight and support the work of volunteer organisations that are tackling some of the most difficult issues;
• To develop closer working links between volunteer organisations in Leeds and our partner European cities; and
• For the council to review the way it uses volunteers.

2011 is the European Year of Volunteering. Its objectives are to:
• Work towards an enabling and facilitating environment for volunteering in the EU;
• Empower volunteer organisations and improve the quality of volunteering;
• Reward and recognise volunteering activities; and
• Raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering.

The “spotlight” theme months in Leeds during 2011 are as follows
1. January and February - poverty and homelessness theme led by LATCH housing association
2. March and April - young people and children theme led by Learning Partnerships
3. May and June - environment theme led by Groundwork
4. July and August – sport theme with Sports Leeds
5. September and October – culture theme led by Space 2
6. November and December theme – health theme led by Healthy Living Network Leeds

The European Year of Volunteering is intended to promote and encourage volunteering throughout the European Union, via activities designed to give greater visibility and profile to its benefits.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Opening celebrations at Cross Gates children’s centre

Picture caption: "(l-r) Joanna Lee with her son Terry Hinchliffe, Cllr Judith Blake and 14 month old Jemima Skeet, celebrate the opening of the Cross Gates and Manston children's centre."

Leeds’ ambitious plan to provide a state-of-the-art children’s centre in every area of the city is well on the way to being fulfilled with the official opening of the Cross Gates and Manston children’s centre.

Councillor Judith Blake, the executive member for children’s services, joined staff, local families and specially invited guests to officially open the centre.

The children’s centre, which is based at Cross Gates primary school, has been up and running since March last year and already has 250 children registered at the centre.

The centre already provides health and support services to families across the Cross Gates and Manston area, including a positive parenting course, a dancing and movement class for toddlers, two story sessions at Cross Gates library and a healthy lifestyle course to help parents improve their own and their children’s eating habits. One to one support is also offered at the centre as are employment advice with Job Centre Plus. Parents can also come to the centre learn how to do baby massage.

Cllr Judith Blake, unveiled the plaque at the opening event, she said:
“Children’s centres are at the core of what we are trying to achieve in Leeds. They provide an opportunity for families to access the vital services to help them develop and succeed.

“It is tremendous what is on offer at the new Cross Gates and Manston centre. It really will be a hub for the local community and help parents provide the very best start in life for their children.

“This is one of the last children’s centres to open across the city and we have shown that having this dedicated support for families and young children right in the heart of communities, really does work.”

Parents and carers are involved in a lot of the decision making at the Cross Gates and Manston centre, through an advisory board and a parents forum.

Joanna Lee, mum to 8 month old Terry Hinchcliffe, is a member of the parents forum and a big advocate of the Cross Gates and Manston children’s centre, she said:
“I was new to the area and I really felt welcomed when I first came here. This is an underprivileged area so its really important parents get involved with the children’s centre. We need to get the message out that coming here is really good for them, they can talk to other adults, and give their children more attention because they’re not busy like they would be at home. There are lots of opportunities here, we’re going to organise trips and do some fundraising to help people come who wouldn’t normally be able to.”

The centre has many new activities planned for 2011, including sessions to help children get ready for nursery, a young carers group, a volunteers programme, baby clinic, and a group especially for dads.

Helen Linton, Cross Gates and Manston children’s centre manager, said;
“I am really proud of everything we’ve achieved since we opened, which is thanks to the dedicated team we have here. I’m really looking forward to getting the new initiatives started for 2011.

“We look forward to welcoming many more families to our groups over the coming months.”

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Council finds 130 abuses of disabled parking badge scheme in just three months

The true level of abuse of a system which allows disabled people to park for free has been revealed after a Leeds City Council investigation.

The council is now mounting a crackdown on improper use of blue badges – and is warning offenders that they face fines and prosecution if they are caught. Conversations with badge holders indicate massive support for more checking and firm action against offenders.

Since the end of October, almost 130 incidents of badges being improperly used have been recorded:
• 119 fines have been issued to people for using a badge they were not entitled to;
• 13 badges were found to be registered with people who had died;
• 25 badges were surrendered on the spot after the users were challenged;
• on four occasions the same badges have been found being used incorrectly twice.

Extensive research has shown a significant problem in Leeds with people using blue badges to which they are not entitled to park in spaces reserved for disabled people or to avoid parking charges.

Blue Badges are only for the use of the registered holder and illegal users of badges face fines and prosecution if they are caught.

Badges must not be loaned to family or friends or they can be withdrawn. They should be returned to the council if they are badly faded or damaged, expired, no longer being used by the badge holder, if the holder has died or if the holder’s condition changes and they are no longer eligible.

The council is working with the Department of Work and Pensions and West Yorkshire Police to share information and address fraud in Leeds – a number of cases involving Blue Badge misuse are currently under investigation and as time goes on, this will send out strong messages to those people who have previously taken Blue Badge misuse lightly.

Councillor Tom Murray, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said:

“As a council we support people who are genuinely disabled and are legitimate badge holders, but misuse of these badges is clearly a problem.

“People who are abusing the system, whether deliberately or through lack of understanding, should consider this fair warning – the council will take action. You face fines and now court action if you are caught misusing a blue badge.

“This is an important scheme that allows disabled people to live independent lives, abuse of the system undermines it and costs the city’s taxpayers a lot of money.”

Improving services for disabled people has always been a high priority for the council, which is committed to ongoing improvements in fairness and equality.

If someone knows of fraudulent use of a Blue Badge, they should call 0113 247 4645 or e-mail - this service is confidential and calls can be made anonymously.

They should provide as many details as possible – such as the badge's serial number, the vehicle colour, make, model and registration number, where vehicle displaying the badge usually parks, the name and address of the badge holder, the name and address of the person misusing the badge.

For more information, go to

For media enquiries please contact:
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council (0113) 224 3937
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office, 0113- 224 3335