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Grants totalling £150,000 have been awarded to Cogges Heritage Trust, Ark T, OxPIP and RAW Workshop from OCF’s Step Change Fund. Volunteer project managers will now help the organisations meet planning milestones and see the fruits of the funding.

Cogges Heritage Trust wanted to transform their organisation from being primarily focused on generating income and delivering an educational visitor attraction, to also supporting the societal and welfare needs of the local community. To do this, the Step Change Fund is supporting the charity to include a much more diverse set of volunteers, specifically aiming to reach people with learning difficulties, poor mental health or physical disabilities.

This will include an accessibility-focused premises upgrade; bespoke training for new volunteers; recruitment of a Community Engagement Officer to carry out needs analysis and outreach work; and development of a new toolkit to evaluate social impact. The charity is also working with their Step Change project manager to build new or enhanced partnerships with organisations that can refer new volunteers.

The Ark T Centre applied to the Step Change Fund having secured the management of a second arts venue in East Oxford: The Venue@Cowley. This will allow the charity to greatly increase the number of arts events aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of a range of beneficiaries, building on their existing and proven work with young people who are homeless, in care or at high risk of sexual exploitation. The Step Change grant from OCF will enable Ark T to recruit a dedicated Centre Development Manager for both The Venue@Cowley and their existing premises. This in turn will allow the organisation to fully benefit from venue hire income, and to redirect the time and focus of their existing two staff members to strategic development and marketing, all of which will create long-term stability.

Oxford Parent and Infant Project (OxPIP) is using Step Change funding awarded this year to turn their parent–infant mental health and wellbeing training into a social enterprise. The charity has developed an excellent reputation as a specialist in parent–infant psychotherapy, and wants to make the most of clinical commissioning opportunities to offer paid training to customers in the statutory, private and charity sectors. The income will create stability for their charitable work, which offers direct therapeutic services to families in Oxfordshire.

RAW Workshop secured Step Change funding in September to initiate a new social enterprise in grounds maintenance. The grant will support the set-up costs for RAW to deliver gardening and landscaping services, training and employing people with mental health difficulties in the enterprise. The Step Change grant will provide bridging funding, so that contracts can be secured and the enterprise run using the organisation’s existing back-office infrastructure – becoming self-sustaining over time. The project will bring in the proven therapeutic benefits of gardening in improving vulnerable people’s mental health.

All of these grants exemplify the strong purpose of the Step Change Fund: to strengthen leading charities so that they are better equipped to address local social problems through their core work, and have stable, sustainable operating processes from which to make an impact.

Some of the funding from Step Change is already making a difference to the charities: in the case of Cogges Heritage Trust, our grant helped the organisation win match funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will complement the community outreach work with historical and preservation improvements.

Cogges Director Colin Shone says: “This award will allow us to recruit more volunteers, offering improved facilities, training and support, and increasing the impact of volunteering on our community. Cogges is very grateful to the Oxfordshire Community Foundation for its support in our project to allow more people to engage with Cogges’ rich history and beautiful spaces.”

Find out more about Step Change