Across Ashford the teams work to improve community and living spaces by providing a landscaping and clearance service. This project is a real partnership between Uprising and Ashford Borough Council and whilst the Charity services the Council’s requirements the activity provides the opportunity to engage with local people and encourage them to take ownership of the areas that they live in. The Aspire+ Programme also place its attendees on the teams as a work placement opportunity.
CAT was initially launched in Ashford in 2013 in partnership with Pipeline CAT teams from Thanet after being approached by Ashford Borough Council. It had become clear to ABC that there were communities in Ashford where a different approach was needed to try and engage these local people. This went hand in hand with the communal spaces of these communities looking messy, over grown and rundown after not being looked after properly for years. CAT teams were created to go in and clear these areas so they were visually improved for residents and to engage them in a way that was not possible with contractors. In 2014 Pipeline CAT teams handed over responsibility to Uprising and we have continued to work practical in these areas since then. CAT is also an intrinsic part of our Aspire+ Programme where young people are given the opportunity to use this as work experience whilst also giving back to the community in a positive way.
Community Action Teams are funded primarily through Ashford Borough Council. A small majority of funding is also allocated to Community Action Teams from Funding received for Aspire. We also draw additional funding through ad hoc work and charge this on a half and daily rate.
A Typical Attendee
CAT teams are now made up of 2 members of staff and Aspire students. These young people are disaffected from mainstream education and come to us with a variety of personal problems. Our aim is always to get residents involved in the work but this can prove challenging at times, although we receive lots of compliments for the work we do! Over the next year there will be greater emphasis on getting more local residents involved.
Method Of Delivery
CAT teams are out for 4 hour sessions, twice a week in the community. Each session involves a variety of mowing, hedge cutting and weeding as we seek to improve these communal areas. We have, as capacity has increased, been able to take on a smaller adhoc jobs such as alleyways and this has proven to be a good way to get into different communities where we have not had a presence before. The teams are equipped with their own tools and a large vehicle.
Our biggest effect is the visual transformation of the areas that we work in. Over the years since CAT was launched these sites have gone from untidy, overgrown communal areas full of brambles and weeds to well kept, tidy and bramble free communal areas. Our impact on residents has been a lot slower and this is always something that we are seeking to improve on. We have had several successes though. A clear example of how CAT should work is a site in South Ashford. When we first started the communal grass area was severely overgrown and the residents of the flats were very much of the opinion that is was not their job to maintain it. After an initial tidy and a few visits to the site a number of the residents started talking to us and we were able to encourage them whilst working alongside them to take ownership of the grass area, and it is now something that the residents maintain themselves.
Our biggest challenge on CAT is to break down the barrier of being seen as landscape contractors by residents and to be seen as youth and community workers. At times this has been a struggle and it has only been through a consistent approach of stopping to chat to the many people that walk by that this has started to change as we receive emails from residents thanking us for the standard of work that we have completed.