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Proceeds of crime pays for village community café’s generation game

February 21, 2014

A NEWLY-directed initiative is helping the young and old of a village to come together – and put the fear of crime behind them.

Soon school pupils will be joining their elders from Penkhull in Stoke-on-Trent on a local history project at the community’s new meeting place.

The generation-bonding exercise has only been made possible by a change in policy – brought about by Staffordshire’s fledging Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Commissioner Matthew Ellis has decided that for the first time ALL funding received by Staffordshire Police from proceeds of crime seizures will go back to local communities.

Penkhull Village Hall has been given £6,023 to open a community café that hopes to reduce the fear of crime among its older residents through interaction with young people there.

The grant will help purchase the café’s furniture, including 10 tables and 40 chairs, and also pay for qualified teachers for the classes.

At first, the café will only be open one morning a week but eventually plans to expand with demand.

With different generations engaging at the café, it is hoped that a project between local schools and older people will start shortly.

Entitled a ‘Personal History of Penkhull’, the children are set to interview and engage with the village’s older residents to produce a free, local history book before the end of 2014.

Places like this play important roles within local communities, helping bring people together and reaching out to vulnerable, isolated elderly residents.

Ultimately, these types of project help increase public confidence within communities and people of all ages.

Project leader Sue Pantin said: “This grant is making it possible for us to create something really special and long lasting in Penkhull.

“We hope our community café will help reduce the fear of crime among our older residents.

“We are very grateful for the financial support which is helping to bring both ideas to fruition.”

Meanwhile a volunteering scheme that helps break the cycle of re-offending has bought a new minibus – thanks to cash from the Proceeds of Crime Fund.

The Restart Volunteering Project, run by Christian charity Saltbox, offers mentoring and training to small teams of ex-offenders who provide painting, decorating and maintenance services for properties and community spaces.

It has been given £5,000 towards a second minibus to develop the Burslem-based scheme, which works closely with police.

Lloyd Cooke, Saltbox chief executive, added: “This is a wonderfully appropriate gift which has helped our Restart service purchase a new minibus, enabling ex-offenders to volunteer for community work, learn new skills and break the reoffending cycle.”

The Proceeds of Crime Fund, which used to be known as the Local Policing fund, is supporting projects in conjunction with local policing teams and local authorities.

It is made up of assets and money seized by police from criminals in Staffordshire under the Proceeds of Crime Act with police continuing to hit them where it hurts – and strip criminals of their assets.

Bids for funding from the OPCC’s Proceeds of Crime Fund have to demonstrate a clear connection with reducing crime and fit into one of the Commissioner’s four priority areas: intervening early, putting victims first, preventing offending and re-offending, and improving public confidence.

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