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It’s been a turbulent last few years. As society opens back up following the Covid pandemic, people are faced with a cost-of-living crisis.
This has put strain on the charitable sector, with charities torn between rising costs and trying to deliver the services that matter to the people they set out to help.
Caerphilly Miners’ Centre for the Community, which is based on the site of the former Caerphilly Miners’ Hospital, is one of those charities feeling the pressure.
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer, Katherine Hughes, who is the secretary of Caerphilly Miners’ Centre, said the biggest challenge facing the centre is “to keep our doors open”.
She said: “We’ve got a very big building and when people walk in they see the social heritage, but what they don’t see is that we’re struggling to meet our energy bills, to keep staff going, keep the place clean, and meet all the health and safety standards and provide a programme which provides a reasonable range of activities for people.
“It’s a real struggle. We’re thinking daily can we afford this. We’ve recently had a review of our energy, and there’s a whole range of changes that we need to make so that we get a lower cost of lighting and removing draughts and just making sure that we can cover our heating costs. That is a really big, big issue for everybody.
Then there’s the cost of food. We’d like to get our kitchen up and running but the cost of food is going up all the time, so catering is obviously more expensive for us.
“But we don’t want to raise our prices to our customers because we know they can’t afford it. So that’s the real challenge – the costs are going up but you’re threatened by your customers not being able to afford to use the resources they need to support their wellbeing.
“The commercial sector would do that but we can’t. Our client group tends to be the people who are least able to bear that extra cost.
“Most of the activities cost between £3 and £5 a session and we don’t want to increase that.”
Katherine continued: “So if we are going to continue to deliver, we’d need to find ways of either getting more people through the door so that the cost can be shared between more people or getting grants to support activities.
“It’s it’s a bit of a tightrope really. You can’t afford to pay your your team less because because of inflation, and you don’t want to get rid of them so we have a challenge of keeping our core costs down to the minimum whilst developing an income that will cover it.”
Currently, the centre has ten part-time staff members, roughly working a combined 100 hours a week.
“We’ve got huge demand”
During the Covid pandemic, the Miners’ centre was forced to close its doors to the community numerous times due to lockdown restrictions, but was able to continue engaging the community through online classes – many of which still run in a hybrid format.
The Miners’ provides a host of activities such as language classes, knitting groups, arts and craft sessions, children’s activities and more.
Since restrictions have eased and people have felt more comfortable being out and about again, demand for activities at the centre is high.
“We’ve got huge demand,” said Katherine. “People are ringing up all the time for different sorts of activities.
“People are just coming out and coming in droves, really, which is lovely.
“We can’t necessarily deliver everything, but we are aware of the fact there’s a lot of demand out there that hasn’t been met over the last couple of years.
“People want to do things locally and they want to do things that don’t cost a fortune.”
She continued: “Often now, they’re struggling with money and so they’re looking for affordable, accessible local activities that raise their mood, improve their mobility, make them feel better, help them to learn something and meet other people.”
Four years after the closure of the Miners’ Hospital in 2011, the Miners’ Centre opened its doors in the original Beeches mansion at the hospital. Since the centre opened, it has undergone millions of pounds worth of redevelopment, with office and community space recently opening in the redeveloped upstairs rooms.
“When we first started, we were thinking that the rental cost of the room upstairs would be about £20 an hour, it’s £15 now – that’s what Covid has done. And yet, the costs of things like paper is three times the cost it was pre-Covid so we’re squeezed. Everybody is squeezed in and so it’s really difficult to manage that in an effective way, and still maintain the coherence of an organisation and keep the motivation of your staff. That is really challenging.”
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Want to be a trustee?
The Miners’ Centre is looking for new trustees to help oversee the organisation.
Katherine said: “The best description I’ve heard of a trustee is as a critical friend, it’s not somebody who’s going to accept everything that is offered to them and it’s not someone who’s going to be unnecessarily negative.
“It’s somebody who can say ‘yeah, that’s a good idea, perhaps you might like to do it this way or this might be something that you would like to take on board’.
The role is voluntary, but Katherine said the centre is looking for people with “something to offer” such as financial skills, experience in human resource management, health and safety or knowledge of buildings.
Katherine also said she wants people who understand the community and its needs to apply, as well as anyone with an expertise in climate change.
Anyone who’s interested in becoming a trustee can contact the centre through its website before the end of June.
Support quality, independent, local journalism…that matters
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