Wednesday, 9 January 2008

CLOWNS gets Lottery grant for play scheme, but Playbus still under threat

NEWS of a £164,295 National Lottery award to West Somerset children’s charity CLOWNS has been tempered by continuing worries over the viability of some of its other services.
CLOWNS has achieved a track record over many years of delivering quality, affordable and fun outreach provision and support to families across West Somerset and Exmoor.
It now provides more than 1,500 different sessions every year, with a total of more than 9,000 attendances, visiting 24 different village and town locations.
The windfall from the Big Lottery Fund will allow it to expand its former Tumbling Toddlers scheme which was primarily aimed at young children, to engage with the whole family in fun activities.
Entire families will be encouraged to be more active and learn about healthy eating.
An outreach support van will travel to villages to offer isolated families an opportunity to join in weekly physical activity sessions in their local village halls, schools, or children’s centres.
Parents, grandparents, carers, and children aged up to four years will share the themed sessions, which aim to educate in areas of healthy living and eating as well as early literacy and numeracy.
CLOWNS co-ordinator Kathy Morton said: “We are so pleased that we have the funding for this important part of our work.
“It will make a huge difference to the lives of some of our most isolated families across the area, and we are now busy preparing for this new work.”
However, Mrs Morton warned the charity was still worried about all the other funding it needed to be able to carry on with all the other parts of its work.
She said the Lottery good news had been followed by some bad news when another funding application was turned down.
Mrs Morton said: “We still need to get funding for the costs of running the Playbus.
“We should be taking delivery of our new double decker bus very shortly, but we are still short of at least £35,000 of the total running cost for the whole year’s budget.
“We will now try other avenues of support, but it all takes a lot of time and effort. We would all prefer to be out delivering all our sessions.”
CLOWNS chairman Jan Ross, told The Post: “We have several strands of provision, including our well-known double decker Playbus, outreach support van, toy library, scrap store, and holiday play schemes.”
Mrs Ross said recent consultations carried out by West Somerset Council showed people were concerned about the lack of facilities and activities for children and families at ‘reasonable’ prices.
A local area agreement had set a target under to increase the proportion of adults who did at least three 30-minute sessions of moderate or strenuous physical activity a week.
Mrs Ross said CLOWNS would work with health and physical activity manager Tracey Milton and her team from Somerset Primary Care Trust to carry out appropriate fun diagnostic tests at the beginning of the programmes, with regular monitoring of progress of individuals during the project.
Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership would also work in partnership with the new project.
Big Lottery Fund regional head Mark Cotton said: “This award will help families interact and enjoy learning in fun and stimulating surroundings.
“Some areas of the county are very isolated, making some facilities much less accessible so I am certain these projects will bring a great deal to families and communities as a whole.”
CLOWNS welcomes visitors, and would be pleased to meet anybody interested in its work. More information can be obtained or appointments made by telephoning 01643 707190.

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