The new Community ‘Hwb’ in Ferndale, serving the Rhondda Fach, has officially opened to the public today (Thursday), providing residents with access to community and childcare services.
To deliver the Hwb, the Council worked in partnership with Fern Partnership, an award-winning organisation which focuses on community development, social enterprise and increasing educational attainment – and aims to provide communities with quality and purposeful opportunities.
As the anchor organisation for the Hwb, Fern Partnership will be responsible for supporting and developing the community network within the area, helping to grow local services for residents of all ages and circumstances.
The Hwb will provide residents with access to childcare services, a new and significantly improved library with access to free Wi-Fi, Employment Support Services, information, advice and assistance on a range of issues including health and well-being, and community learning provision.
Facilities included at the new Hwb are an IT suite, comprehensive childcare facilities, accessible toilet and community meeting and consultation rooms. The Hwb will also shortly include a sensory room and outside garden area, both of which will be accessible for people with disabilities.
Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being & Cultural Services, said: “The new Hwb is the second Community Hub in the Council’s ambitious three-year programme to bring services and facilities closer to residents, and make them more accessible for all, with the first being Canolfan Pennar in Mountain Ash.
“The relocation of Ferndale Library into the Hwb will see significant improvements to library services, such as an enhanced children’s area, as well as new furniture, books and resources. The Hwb will also provide much-needed community meeting spaces for existing community groups, and space for new ones to be created and flourish.
“For the delivery of the Hwb, we have partnered with Fern Partnership to deliver this innovative facility. Fern Partnership has a high profile in the local area, and is a well-respected organisation that has a track record of delivering high-quality projects and services to communities. This innovative partnership with a third-sector organisation has the backing of the community, and will undoubtedly help to provide better public services to residents.
“The location of the new Hwb will sit at the heart of the community, providing easy access to users whether they want to walk, drive or use public transport, providing a focal point for the local community and also encouraging more people to visit and use Ferndale Town Centre.
“It is paramount that the Council continues to provide efficient and sustainable services to our residents, with the Community Hub model helping to achieve these ambitions.”
In October 2017, the Council’s Cabinet agreed an investment programme to develop Community Hubs across RCT - to ensure that the Council is able to continue providing key frontline services through targeted investment, improving services provided to residents. The opening of the new Hwb, North Road, Ferndale, follows on from the successful recent opening of the first community hub at Canolfan Pennar, Mountain Ash.
Michelle Coburn-Hughes, Founding and Managing Director at Fern Partnership, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to be officially opening this fantastic facility today, as the lead anchor organisation.
“We are delighted as a community charity to have developed significant collaborations, working partnerships and the creation of a brand that major stakeholders engage with and believe in.
“What makes this journey poignant and significant for us is the beginning and where we came from. A school Parent Staff Association is now rooted in the heart of a community making a difference in the 60 jobs it has created, the breadth and quality of services on offer, and the culture change for many.
“May we take this opportunity also to thank our major funders, including RCT Council, Welsh Government, Pen Y Cymoedd, WCA and WCVA who have financially supported the developments of the facility as well as our staff who are undoubtedly our greatest asset”
The Fern Partnership was also advised by Social Business Wales throughout the development of the Hwb.
Tricia Morgan, Business Adviser for Wales Co-operative Centre at Social Business Wales, said: “I’ve been very lucky to be part of Fern Partnership’s growth journey over the last four years and helping them to achieve their business and social aims. It makes my job worthwhile when I see the difference these social businesses make to the local community. With Michelle and Nikki at the helm, Fern is in a great position to keep growing for the future and creating vital jobs and training opportunities for the people of RCT.”
Social Business Wales can provide advice and support to social businesses that are in the process of being set up and particularly those that are looking to grow, through employing more staff, bidding for more work and diversifying its income in other ways. Social Business Wales is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government. It is delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.