We are a community organisation based in the heart of the Moss Bank, Clinkham Wood and Carr Mill estate in St Helens, Merseyside. We serve a tightly-knit neighbourhood of children, young people, adults and older people and have been connecting our community together for over twelve years. Our mission is to work together to improve the lives of our residents by providing life changing opportunities.

The Centre opened in 2007 and emerged from a small committee of local volunteers coming together to take positive social action and to improve facilities on the Moss Bank estate. Their vision was to transform a historical farm building (built c.1760 and come to known locally as “The Blackhouse”) into a multi-use community centre, which has flourished and grown from strength to strength. We pride ourselves in helping to create meaningful and lasting relationships with the families of Moss Bank, Clinkham Wood and Carr Mill.

The Work We Do

The Centre is used as a venue for hire seven days a week by groups and organisations who deliver healthy, fun and creative activities for our beneficiaries. We engage between 800 to 1000 people each year and have worked with over 100 partners to offer a range of activities, groups, courses, support services, and volunteering opportunities.

We also manage and deliver our own projects. In October 2018, we successfully received a Reaching Communities grant from the Big Lottery Fund. For the first time, this allowed us to employ a full-time Centre Coordinator who is now leading on delivering our vision for the next five years, engaging more with the community, and developing projects which the people of Moss Bank can get involved in.

We are making a difference! A snapshot from a recent evaluation shows, for example, that 59 older people participating in a weekly fitness activity are saying that their health is improving, they feel less isolated, and are more confident going out. Volunteering opportunities have led to 12 people moving into further education or employment and a case study of a local resident is saying something we hear regularly: “Park Farm Community Centre is part of our heritage. I have been coming here since I was a girl. I am 66 now and still using it. We’ve got to have somewhere to go!”

BBC Children in Need invested a second grant in April 2019, which is helping to continue our successful youth project led by an experienced and passionate team of youth workers. 362 children and young people have engaged with the project since 2016. 267 families are reporting improvements to their children’s behaviour, and thereby enjoying a more harmonious family environment.

Clearly, the impact and social value of our community work is recognised and cherished.

The practical difference we want to make

We want our centre to be sustainable, inclusive, and accessible; a diverse and uplifting community hub led by, and equipped with a team of inspiring, skilled and dedicated people. We have made positive steps in this direction already from transforming and refurbishing our building, to successfully delivering past and present projects, and from the recent investment we have received for the future of our community centre.

We want to reach and include more isolated and marginalised groups (e.g. socially isolated older people, men and boys, those living with mental health issues, people with disabilities) and to encourage involvement through accessible and engaging activities. This will ensure steps are made towards creating a community of people that take active steps towards improving their wellbeing, are listened to, and who are inspired with greater community spirit.

Our community and its challenges

The ward of Moss Bank has a population of over 11,000 people. Park Farm ACYP is the only community organisation on the large housing estate where we are based. There are 28 LSOAs within the St Helens Borough that fall within the 10% most deprived nationally. Our centre sits between two super output areas, Clinkham Wood and Carr Mill, which are ranked 6% and 8.9% respectively. This shows the kind of struggle and deprivation faced by the people we work with. High levels of child poverty, unemployment, single parent families, poor health and wellbeing and incidents of crime are some of the main challenges faced by our users.

The geography of the estate itself contributes to a sense of isolation. There are better public transport connections than before, but we remain relatively cut off from the nearby town of St Helens. The busy A580 East Lancashire Road divides the population away from the town centre and other wards. Low investment from the local authority in regenerating the area all contributes to a sense of ‘being forgotten’ and not cared about… all of which necessitates the type of holistic, long-term support we can and do provide.

Strengths and opportunities of the community

Nevertheless, community spirit here is strong! The families we engage with show a strong resilience and hope for future improvement and development. This inspires us. Many families have grown up on the estate, which - coupled with the heritage of the centre - is important in our work across multiple generations. This is usually a motivation for local people to volunteer with us. We have good connections with schools, churches, libraries, and the local authority. Our councillors serve as trustees on our board, and our MP Conor McGinn is now a patron, which places us in a stronger position to make a difference.

St Helens CCG is recognising the work done by the voluntary sector. Social prescription as a valuable ingredient to the wellbeing of people is a big opportunity and we take an active role in local networks, consortia and opportunities to bring our centre closer to work done in these areas. We have developed relationships with charities and organisations to ensure that our work is colinear and impactful, we share learning, and deliver and facilitate each other’s work. Jane Kennedy, Merseyside Police Commissioner, recently cited Park Farm ACYP Centre as an example of best practice during a keynote speech at a Liverpool City Region Conference, saying “…this is how a community centre should be run, by the people for the people”.

This was incredibly inspiring for us to hear!