Community engagement funding comes to Fenland

Following the earlier funding received by Support Cambridgeshire for their work in Fenland, the partnership is thrilled to announce an additional five-year funding from the National Lottery Community Fund. This funding will continue to support and develop voluntary and community sector groups and organisations throughout the county.

The Support Fenland project began in 2021 with funding from Lloyds Foundation Bank, initiating a one-year pilot project to assess the support needed by voluntary and community groups in Fenland for further development. The outcome highlighted the essential need for such support across the district to maximise the potential of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS).

In response to the pivotal findings of this pilot, Support Cambridgeshire applied for funding from various sources, with successful outcomes. This initiative builds upon the groundwork laid by the pilot project, focusing on enhancing and expanding support and advisory services throughout Fenland. The project’s ethos emphasises collaborative efforts with local communities to develop resilient support systems tailored by and for the communities.


Julie Farrow, CEO of Hunts Forum and lead on Support Cambridgeshire, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “We are excited that we can now offer the communities of Fenland the same type of support that other districts receive. This five-year funding will enable us further to enhance the voluntary and community sector’s wonderful work.”


With years of experience collaborating with staff and volunteers from various charities and community groups across the county, both partners specialise in providing guidance, training, and support. They aim to empower individuals in these organisations, equipping them with the necessary skills and confidence to secure funding, expand their outreach, and effect positive change within local communities. Furthermore, both organisations facilitate the establishment of new groups, amplify community voices, and foster knowledge sharing among groups.

While Fenland groups haven’t received bespoke support like some other districts, this new project aims to rectify that. It will begin by engaging with existing groups, local residents, and other stakeholders to determine necessary changes to support charities and communities better. Drawing on their experience, the partners will provide more training, assistance, and opportunities for collaboration.


Mark Freeman, CEO at CCVS, shared his excitement, stating, “Fenland communities are already making significant contributions, and we are thrilled to see that with this funding from the National Lottery Communities Fund, we can complement existing efforts to enhance further and develop what works within the district.”


The project is poised to ensure that Fenland’s charities and community groups consistently have the resources and support necessary to cultivate healthier, happier communities.

Fenland District Council / Culture and creativity/ 20th November

Grants available: Up to £2,000

Applications close: Monday 20th November

Who is the funding for; Individuals and organisations working in Fenland. Priority will be given to those with a Fenland postcode.

Link: Fenland Culture Fund – Fenland District Council


This funding programme is designed to support Fenland’s Cultural Strategy (PDF) [1MB] . The Fenland Culture Fund is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is a partnership project with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy.

Grants of up to £2000 are available for a range of activities that involve culture or heritage in Fenland.

The 2023/24 year is a pilot programme with plans to make it a long-term fund. There will be two funding rounds per year. The budget available for the first round is £23,000 and the next deadline for applications is Monday 20th November.

Alongside the first round of the Fenland Culture Fund small grants, we will also be establishing a Giving Circle as a partnership project with Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy. Through the Giving Circle programme, the Fenland Cultural Strategy will look to create longevity, and a feeling of continuous, demonstrably beneficial impact where to date, there has been a lack of joined up investment across the district and its established networks. The Giving Circle programme will provide an opportunity for local businesses and individuals to support their local creative and cultural economy in an accessible way, encouraging the growth and sustainability of arts, culture, and heritage in Fenland.

Fenland Community Living Rooms – Want to be part of these new community spaces?

After being successful with a ‘Know You Neighbourhood‘ funding application, Cambridgeshire ACRE is delighted to be able to support town and parish councils, village hall committees, church communities, local charities and other community groups to establish a network of Community Living Rooms in Fenland this autumn. These must run from publicly accessible community buildings, such as community centres, village halls, churches and their halls, older peoples’ day centres, youth centres and community libraries.

They are very similar to Warm Hubs, but the name ‘Warm Hubs’ has been changed to reflect community feedback and to ensure that the diverse needs of all visitors are considered. Cambridgeshire ACRE believes visitors will largely attend their local Community Living Room for companionship and to make social connections. However, loneliness is a complex issue, and attendees elsewhere have also been found to be experiencing poor health, with many having specific vulnerabilities, frailty, disability or poor mental health.

Cambridgeshire ACRE expects Community Living Rooms to reflect the needs of each community, so some might evolve out of groups that already meet, for example, you may already be holding a community café or coffee morning or breakfast club; some might be arranged around other activities such as a playgroup or older people’s / friendship club and others might be completely new in their set-up as a Community Living Room.

To become established, they need your community to identify a team of a minimum 3 volunteers and a publicly accessible community venue that can offer a warm and safe place where local people can expect a friendly and inclusive welcome.

Cambridgeshire ACRE’s offer to help you get your Community Living Room’s doors open includes:


  • A supported volunteering programme that will help you establish and run a Community Living Room that reflects the needs of your own community. Cambs ACRE will check building suitability; provide volunteers with training; give support with safeguarding and health & safety policies; and supply materials to promote your Community Living Room and its value to your community. There will also be monthly networking events so you can share ideas and experiences with others across Fenland.
  • A grant for two years to allow for building rental, heating, refreshments and any additional specialist equipment that might be needed to make your Community Living Room successful.
  • A team of ‘Village Agents’ who will be available at a parish level to provide help, support and solutions for the health and social care needs of those who might visit your Community Living Room.
  • Being part of a UK Government-funded project which will provide learning to others regarding approaches to supporting community loneliness and volunteering across the UK.

Would you like to know more?

Cambridgeshire ACRE invite you to join us for a short online event on Thursday 14 September 2023 at 6pm where they will present more information on Community Living Rooms; the support you will receive from us if you take part; and answer any questions you might have. Please register to attend by clicking on the button below and completing the online form

Register to attend here


Expressing an interest in taking part

After the online event, they will invite you to express an interest if you wish to explore this opportunity further. You are welcome to complete an Expression of Interest form now, if you wish – please just click on the button below to access. Cambs ACRE will be in touch to discuss the establishment of a Community Living Room in your community after next Thursday’s event.

Complete Expression of Intrest Form Here


Not in Fenland? Cambridgeshire ACRE can also support Community Hubs in East and South Cambs. For more information about this or any of the above please contact Alison Brown 

Nominate your Wisbech Unsung Heroes

It’s time to nominate your Wisbech Unsung Heroes

This autumn sees the return of Wisbech Unsung Heroes – a chance to recognise those who go the extra mile to help the town and community.

The awards are back for a third time after a two year hiatus thanks to the pandemic and so it’s time to get nominating your Wisbech Unsung Heroes as the competition is relaunched today (Wednesday).

Wisbech Town Council is running the Wisbech Unsung Heroes Awards with support from the Fenland Citizen and the aim is to recognise those townspeople who go the extra mile for their community.

The awards were initially launched in 2017 with an awards ceremony in early 2018.

This year we have seven categories: Best Neighbour (that person who goes out of the way to help those around them), Best Customer Service (could be shop, business or even medical person), Best Business (a firm that has made an outstanding contribution to the town), Wisbech Hero (someone who has done something heroic like help in an emergency), Roger Green Sports Award (someone who has made a fantastic contribution to sport in the town – participant or coach), Wisbech Community Hero (someone who has made a major contribution to help the local community), Wisbech Youth Community Hero (as per previous award for anyone under 18).

A panel of judges will choose the winners in each category from those nominated.
All those shortlisted will be invited to a presentation evening which will be held on Saturday January 28 at the Queen Mary Centre in Queens Road, Wisbech.

So, if you know someone who deserves recognition, why not nominate them – by writing all of the following details: Your name, name of the person you are nominating, contact details for both you and your hero, and a short piece explaining why you have nominated them for whichever award you have chosen, and post it to Wisbech Town Council, Town Hall, North Brink, Wisbech PE13 1JR, or email the same information to before Wednesday, December 14.

Coun Sam Hoy said: “These awards aim to recognise Wisbech people who have done something special for our town. We have some amazing people living here.

“We all know people who do extra things to help the community or us as individuals, so now is the time to give them recognition.”

Jeremy Ransome, Citizen editor, added: “We are proud to support these awards. It is always nice to recognise people who do things that make our community a good place to live.”

Young People’s Counselling Service Parent and Caregivers Group starts up in Wisbech

The Young People’s Counselling Service is offering a supportive group for parents and caregivers who have concerns about their child’s mood, behaviour or mental health. This may include young people who refuse or are reluctant to go to school, who seem worried, and young people with low mood or seem to feel down about themselves. The group is open to parents and caregivers of both primary and secondary school age young people.

The group is run by an experienced therapist to offer parents and caregivers a safe space to share, talk about their experiences and to connect with other families. The therapist is on-hand to offer any advice and answer any questions. We would also like to share mindfulness techniques that can be used at home to help young people – and encourage our group members to have a go during our group time to practice these techniques for themselves and have some time for relaxation.

The group will take place weekly in the cosy setting of the Annabelle Davis Centre (Wisbech) and we will have refreshments available.

To learn more or to book your place for the group, please email

Day: Tuesday

Time: 1:30pm – 3pm

Location: Annabelle Davis Centre

St. Peter’s Lodge

Love Lane


PE13 1HP


How our Community Engagement Lead rose to the challenge in Fenland

As hundreds of thousands of elderly people start to receive their autumn coronavirus booster vaccine this week, Debbie Drew, our Community Engagement Lead Fenland, talks about the challenges and barriers she faced in setting up the vaccination programme in the Fenland region.

As Debbie says, ‘I was employed to look at vaccine hesitancy and uptake in Fenland, particularly with the Eastern European Community and the Homeless. To enable this, two local organisations were engaged and funded to provide workers. Ferry project had one full-time worker, and Access Migrant support had a Latvian / Russian speaker and a Lithuanian speaker’.

‘Having these two organisations on board helped break down some of the barriers (particularly language for me) as they already had a trusted presence in the community.’

‘The project did various things over the year but included a lot of engagement with businesses. Often the workers in the businesses have the information we needed, particularly issues arising and general feelings towards a vaccine.’

‘Since March this year, we have been investigating places where we could bring a roving vaccination team to the different communities. This was either by hiring a room or bringing the vaccination vehicle to a site. Therefore, I spent time visiting all the four market towns (and some villages) to see where we might get a good response’.

‘I found a suitable venue in Chatteris, and the first pop-up we did there was during a big storm day (we nearly cancelled), but we still saw 54 people turn up for vaccination. However, booking the venue and turning up does not alone produce consistent numbers. Therefore, during the previous week, I organised for some posters and flyers to be printed and hand-delivered to shops, doctor’s surgeries, sports venues and anywhere else that will take them’.

‘Engaging directly with local businesses on the ground proved to be a great help.  Going around and speaking to everyone and sharing information, as well as answering general questions, proved extremely helpful and led to great attendance at these events. The highest turnout was 141 in Chatteris after the Spring Booster was announced. The businesses have all gotten to know me, and I have no problem asking them to share the information’.

‘The most important thing that I have learned is that although there is hesitancy around vaccines for many people, there were bigger issues facing them. The main one is limited access – if you live in a village and do not drive, getting to a mass vaccination site is difficult- local transport is not always the best. Many people also found that the opening times were not suitable or the slots at weekends were unavailable’.

‘Many people had been offered vaccinations 20 to 30 miles away, but this was too far to travel for some, especially for those who didn’t deem vaccinations or boosters’ top priority. Even now, at some of our recent pop-up sessions, we are still getting people coming for their first-time vaccination’.

‘If the public were carers (this can include parents), getting to a vaccine centre takes time and meant time away from caring for, which was not always possible. When you have several children, taking them all to a vaccination centre is not ideal either. Thus the more local approach tended to suit these people’.

‘Needle phobia was another reason people did not attend the vaccination centres.  However, at the pop-up sites, the staff were able to offer to see people in a quieter environment and gave them extra time & support’.

Debbie concluded by saying ‘Although we have had some great results this year, I cannot get complacent and will keep pressing hard and setting up pop-up sessions wherever we can.  With infections falling, health bosses are still predicting a rise in Covid and flu cases this winter, which is expected to increase the pressure on hospitals’.

The funding and project are due to finish on 18th October 2022. To find out about the vaccination programme in Fenland before then, please get in touch with Debbie on 07955440672 or email her at

Cambridgeshire Skills are organising a Summer Fest of Fun Activities

Cambs Skills Learn Plan and have fun Summer Fest Summer 22

Look at WHAT’S ON at March Community Centre during June – August 2022.  Click here for more information and to download the program of events

Lots of fun activities include Escape Room, Carnival of Colour, Urban Festival, Harry Potter Day and much much more.

Also check out the themed workshops & courses for all the family.  These include:

Ready for the Playground

Green Fingers and Muddy Boots

Wicked Art and Witchy Welbeing

Keeping your Family Safe Online

What are your kids learning? English

Save Money, Save the Planet

Artwork and Colours for Beginners

Improve your maths

and much much more..




Launch of the Support Fenland report

In January 2020, Lloyds Foundation Bank funding Support Cambridgeshire Partnership to develop and deliver a CVS support project for the VCSE organisations of Fenland.

At the time, and it is still the case, there was no official infrastructure support for Fenland groups, unlike other districts like Huntingdonshire, City or South Cambridgeshire. The Lloyds Bank Foundation grant aimed to showcase how this type of support can develop communities to grow from within and be a worthwhile financial decision by funders.

The project started with a range of conversations with existing groups, local people and other interested parties to find out what people would like to see the change in the way charities and communities are supported. This information and the experience both partners have in delivering work in the district developed a tailored offer for VCS in Fenland. It also has given both teams the time and ability to learn more about what Fenland groups need to thrive.


Mark Freeman, CEO at CCVS, stated ‘Support Fenland has allowed us to get some time to understand better and clarify what we already knew about the wonderful communities of Fenland. We hope that the Support Cambridgeshire partnership can continue to work within the district, and we will be able to find further funding to give the level of service Fenland groups deserve.’


Julie Farrow, CEO at Hunts Forum, said ‘ The Support Fenland project has been exciting. It has allowed both charities to develop links and partnerships, which we hope with further funding will allow us to deliver more in Fenland. The report, I feel, demonstrates this need very well and comes from the communities themselves.’


In March 2021, the project funding ended, but some work continues through the Cambridgeshire County Council, Support Cambridgeshire contract. Both Hunts Forum and CCVS are keen to fund further funding to allow the work that has been completed to be built on and developed further.

In the meantime, the team has written a report looking at what they discovered.

grey box with clcik here to read the support fenland report written in it

Councillors tell us their communities needs

Back in early July, Support Fenland met with some of the Fenland District Councillors to update them on the project and hear their views on what their communities need.

By Victoria Hopkins

In this meeting we shared with them the themes that had emerged from our engagement sessions earlier in the year, which you can read about in more detail on our previous blog posts, and then we talked to them about their hopes for the voluntary sector in their areas.

We discussed what make a good community, and how it was driven by having a variety of social activities. However, it was about more than just the social aspect of the group, it was about how they become hubs within the community, where individuals can find out about other groups within their community who might be able to help with other issues. It was also important that there was physical infrastructure to allow people to have the space to come together, whether that is parish halls or a play area.

It was also important to have local groups where members of the community can support each other. This has become particularly relevant with the Covid-19 pandemic and the transport difficulties in Fenland.

The challenges the groups were facing were focused on the lack of volunteers and funding. Many groups are relying on the same volunteers to deliver activities. There can be a lot of bureaucracy involved, especially around groups which work with children, which can put other volunteers off joining activities, and there can be a large time burden. When it comes to funding, the traditional fundraising opportunities have all been cancelled due to Covid-19, whilst at the same time groups are seeing increased costs, especially relating to speakers.

We wrapped up the session with a discussion on the ways that the councillors thought that we could help.

Help groups to find new volunteers, including rethinking their volunteering offer to include more flexible, shorter terms and local activities.

Explore ways to reduce bureaucracy to make it easier for groups in Fenland to operate.

Finding a way to coordinate volunteers across different organisations, and to deliver the services needed for the communities.

Explore other barriers to volunteering and support groups to overcome those issues.

Helping businesses to understand the benefits of employee volunteering.

Encouraging groups to apply for local funding opportunities to help reduce the shortfall from traditional community fundraising activities.

A huge thank you to all of the councillors who gave up their evening to talk to us about their communities. The input that they gave has helped to further shape our proposed work in Fenland over the next 6 months.

Firstly, there will be a big focus on volunteering. We are meeting with our infrastructure colleagues in Norfolk to understand the work that they are doing on volunteering passports, and whether they help to remove bureaucracy for small groups. We will report back on this, along with the national work that is being looked at in this area. Our September Fenland Networking event is all about volunteers, and the great work that is already happening which can be built upon. In November there will a workshop for groups in Fenland on how to gain recognition within their communities, to build relationships and secure volunteers and funding in the future.  We are also discussing potential volunteer fairs for Fenland, whether they are face to face, online or hybrid events, early in the new year to tap into those who are looking to start the new year by supporting their community.

At each of our Fenland networking events we have an update on funding where we discuss upcoming funding opportunities with different grant bodies. We know that groups in Fenland aren’t making as many applications as groups in other districts, so in November we’ll be working to understand what these barriers are, and then working with both the funders and the groups to start to overcome these barriers. CCVS & Hunts Forum also regularly run workshops on different aspects of funding, including making good funding applications and crowdfunding which Fenland groups are encouraged to attend.

When it comes to businesses, Hunts Forum & Support Cambridgeshire are running events in October & November which are focusing on how groups can engage with businesses more effectively. Whether that is by securing funding or volunteers, these workshops will focus on creating a business engagement strategy and practical steps to take. Details of both events can be found on the Support Cambridgeshire website

Vic will continue to be available to any group who would like support on any aspect of running their group. Appointments can be made using an online booking system on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Vic is also available every other Thursday evening for those who need support outside of our usual working hours.

We’ll be back again with another blog post in October, where we’ll update you on our networking events so far, and our training plans for the remainder of the year. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters to keep up to date with everything that’s happening with Support Fenland, as well as the rest of our work across Cambridgeshire.

Funding in Fenland…what next?

One of the topics that we have talked about a lot during the Support Fenland project has been funding. We know from speaking to funders that Fenland is a priority area for their funding programmes, and we know from speaking to groups that they’re worried about where their money is coming from. So, the question we’ve been asking representatives of community groups, charities, funders, and support organisations this autumn is “how do we increase funding success for groups in Fenland?


One of the biggest issues is that groups aren’t making applications. They told us that they are put off making applications because:

  • They find funding applications complex, time consuming and there is no guarantee of success.
  • They aren’t looking to deliver something different. Instead, they want the funds to carry on doing the things that they already do
  • Finally, funders are seen as risk averse and need to have proof of success at the point of application, rather than to fund you to test out activities first. This is particularly a challenge for small and medium sized groups, who don’t have the money to deliver the activities to get that proof upfront, and so get stuck in a vicious cycle.


We heard from the funders about adjustments that they are putting in place to make their application processes more accessible to smaller groups. This includes Living Sport who have been switching to telephone calls instead of application forms so that groups can talk to a grants officer about their project, and changing their evaluation requirements to make them more proportional for smaller grants.

Funders told us that where the groups were able to apply for funding, then their applications were well received. If applications weren’t successful, it was because the groups hadn’t built a relationship with the funder, hadn’t considered the long-term sustainability of their work, or were trying to squeeze their project to try and fit the requirements of the funders.

We discussed lots of ideas about things that the funders, the groups, or support organisations like us could do differently to overcome these issues. We’ve shared the slides from our Jamboard below so that you can see all the details, but ideas that we came up with included:

  • Reviewing funding application processes to make them simpler and easier to navigate. This might include scaling the complexity of the application with the amount of funding, or changing the language on the application forms to make it easier for groups to understand what the funder is actually looking for.
  • Increasing the level of support to applicants. This might include making it easier for groups to speak to funders and build relationships before application, having a series of short videos on how to complete the application, or enabling support organisations to help groups complete the application forms.
  • Developing capability within groups to complete applications and deliver on funded projects. This might involve running and attending training course or workshops, recruiting volunteers with specific skill sets relating to fundraising, or creating and attending peer support networks.

Here at Support Cambridgeshire, we’ve been working up ideas that we can take forwards, alongside our existing offering. For example,

“Meet the Funders” events where groups can make appointments to speak to representatives from different funders about their projects. This is a great step towards relationship building, and to get an idea of whether your project will be fundable.

Training courses on funding applications that are run periodically throughout the year.

From 2021 there will also be a new Fundraising Network, where you can come along and meet others who have responsibility for raising funds, to learn and share with each other about what is going well and discuss what support you need.

You’ll be able to keep up to date with all the events as we announce them, by signing up to the CCVS and Hunts Forum newsletters.

We’re also running regular meetings between support organisations like ours and funders, where we can share insight that we are getting from groups, work out the best ways for us all to work and learn together, and understand the barriers to accessing funding and identifying changes that can be made. Building these relationships between our organisations will make a difference in the support that we can all offer to groups who are looking to apply in the future.

Cambridge CVS & Hunts Forum are on hand to help support you with finding funding opportunities for groups, and to review and help complete your applications. If you would like some one-to-one support, then contact Vic ( to arrange a time for you to speak with a development worker.

What have been your experiences with funding applications? Have you managed to secure grants to support your organisation? Have you been worried about taking the first steps in an application and stalled? Whatever your experiences, we’d really like to hear from you to help shape our thinking for the future.


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