One stop shop of support

A NEW centre which opened in Bideford this week aims to provide a ‘one stop shop’ of assistance, training and advice to help people into work and also to address a wide range of other life issues.

The Keystone Centre in Gammaton Road, was officially opened on Monday by Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox at a ceremony attended by some 60 representatives of related agencies, charities and organisations.

It has been developed by Torridge Training Services at its newly refurbished premises in Gammaton Road, Bideford, with the aid of a �90,000 grant from Productive Skills For Devon.

TTS has helped thousands of unemployed people over the past 25 years with its training programmes. Now, by offering free office space and facilities to other charity and voluntary organisations, it is aiming to provide closer, multi-agency working under one roof to support a wide range of disadvantaged groups in the community.

The new centre is offering resources for those who provide support for the long term and cyclical unemployed, lone parents, the rurally isolated and people with health and disability issues. Clients could also include those with a history of offending, people with debt, housing or relationship issues, problems of substance or alcohol abuse and those lacking in functional and life skills.

There are opportunities for everything from permanent office space to a hot desk, conference facilities and a variety of flexible office space and meetings rooms. Users will also be able to make use of training rooms with audio-visual equipment, administration and secretarial services, IT suite and wireless access and catering.

Much of the refurbishment of the new centre was carried out by people already on work programmes there.

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TTS chief executive Brett Parker said the group, originally established in Torridge, now operated from 13 offices across Devon and Cornwall and also ran its own Social Enterprise arm, generating income through providing training programmes, management consultancy, marketing and sales to businesses at commercial rates and also running its own commercial hairdressers and a frozen yoghurt and toasted sandwiches outlet in Exeter.

The new centre had followed a review of their operations over the past 18 months, which recognised that clients might face many barriers and there was a need for multi-agency working, he said.

They had bought a building in Barnstaple and were hoping to do the same there next year.

Mr Cox described the new centre as “visionary, exciting and pioneering.”

The Secretary of State had expressed an interest and he was hoping to get the Minister down to see the centre for himself, he said.

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