Gwent Projects Secure Cash Seized from Criminals

A total of 51 projects have been awarded a slice of the £153,085 awarded by Gwent PCC Ian Johnston from his Partnership Fund. The Partnership Fund grant scheme is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. This includes money seized from organised crime and convicted drug dealers who have been ordered to pay back some of their ill-gotten gains (full list of awards at end of release).

Nearly 210 applications amounting to a total of over £1.1million were submitted under the latest round (March 2015) from charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities.

Each group was able to apply for between £250 and £10,000 and had to demonstrate the positive impact their project would have on their community. Applicants also had to demonstrate how their projects contributed to delivering the Commissioner's priorities for Gwent which include preventing and reducing crime; taking more effective action to tackle anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm.

After much deliberation, the long wait is now over for the community groups vying for the money. Among the successful projects announced today is the Argoed Residents for a Safer Community. The group was formed as a positive response by the community following the tragic murder of a young woman in a hostel in the village last year. It was initially established to campaign against the use of bed and breakfasts to house vulnerable people in the community.

The group aims to represent the views and feelings of the people of Argoed and the surrounding area and to provide them with a safer environment in which to live in. They now meet most Mondays at Argoed Village Hall and have been busy working with partners in the community to tackle issues identified as problematic such as dog fouling, off-road biking and speeding. Their fundraising activities have also helped raise money for a range of community initiatives.

The grant of £4,630 from the Commissioner will now be used to set up a one-stop community hub which will be run from Argoed village hall. Part of the money will be spent on purchasing computer equipment, printers, scanners, stationary and an i-pad which will be available for everyone in the community to use.

The new equipment will enable the group to establish monthly surgeries at the hall which will have a different theme each month and will provide help and advice on a range of different topics such as crime prevention, scams awareness and drug and alcohol support. In addition, the group also hopes to provide educational courses aimed at enhancing people's computer literacy. Some of the money will also be spent on supporting a number of community projects and diversionary activities and events for children and young people over the school summer holidays and up to the end of the year.

Ben Gibbs, Chairman of the Argoed Residents for a Safer Community group, said: "Securing this funding was a huge boost for us. There aren't many events and activities happening in the community at the moment, especially for younger people, so we thought it was important that we start organising some activities which would bring the community together and which the children can engage in. It's good to see this money going to good causes. We've had a fantastic response from the community and there are lots of residents behind us now. This money will help take us to the next stage and will provide more equipment and activities which will bring the community closer together."

One organisation literally rolling into action thanks to the funding is the Changing Gearz cycle project in Griffithstown near Pontypool. Changing Gearz works with young people aged 14 - 24 referred to the LIFT / CODI project located on the Panteg industrial estate. The project targets young people who have become disengaged from school or training and aims to improve their confidence, skills, education and employability by providing a range of accredited training in bike maintenance and repair, mountain bike leadership, cycle proficiency, administration, marketing and web development. Once repaired, the bikes donated to or purchased by the project are sold in the community and any profits are pumped back into the social enterprise to provide more staff, apprentices and training opportunities. The project was established in March 2014 and has supported over 120 young people, primarily from the Torfaen area since its inception. The project has also taken on four young local apprentices who were previously unemployed.

With their award of å£7,280 Changing Gearz will employ a specialist tutor/mechanic for six months who will train and qualify six young people to become accredited trainers themselves. It is planned that the newly trained individuals will then teach other young people who are disengaged from education or training to undertake cycling training in schools and to educate children in the safe use of cycles.

Gareth Jones, the Engagement and Progression Coordinator for Torfaen County Borough Council, was responsible for setting up the project and establishing it as a social enterprise.

Delighted with the funding, Gareth, said: "We aim to drive young people away from negative or potentially criminal activities and provide them with a positive outlet which will hopefully improve their skills and employability. We work with young people who have all sorts of issues and who really need our support. It involves reclaiming old bicycles, bringing them in here and getting the young people to fix them up. We teach them the proper way to do it and they get qualifications from it. The funding will enable us to train more young people over the next six months and get us to a point where we can potentially be more self-sustaining and to a position where we can employ more apprentices and sell more bikes. This is a fantastic way of using the ill-gotten gains of criminals by putting something back into the community."

Congratulating all of the projects on their success, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "This is all about taking money from criminals and putting it to good use in our communities. It's about putting resources back into the hands of the law-abiding majority. This year's funding adds to more than £300,000 retrieved from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act which has been put back into over 100 local community projects in Gwent over the last two years through my Partnership Fund. The competition was extremely tough again this year and it's a shame we couldn't fund even more projects."

For the full list of projects funded, please click here