First Minister Mark Drakeford and Archbishop George Stack will be among dignitaries at the opening of a new community support centre in Ely on 22 November. Run and managed by the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), St Vincent’s Ely Bridge, formerly St Clare’s church on Mill Road, will seek to address the multiple challenges facing parts of the community.
In-work poverty is a major issue in Ely with around 50% of children living in low-income households. Unemployment rates are also high - in approximately 15% of Ely households, adults with dependent children are unemployed, compared with around 5% in less deprived areas of Cardiff. Not surprisingly, Ely has among the lowest scores for life satisfaction and happiness and among the highest scores for anxiety.
Commenting on the need for a new approach to supporting the local community, St Vincent’s Ely Bridge Manager, Nathan Harding, says: “There is a strong spirit of community in Ely, and it just needs a catalyst to really come together and prosper. St Vincent’s Ely Bridge aims to be that catalyst and become the heart around which the community can strengthen its foundations.
“Our overarching ethos is to provide the building blocks for a secure future by giving the people of Ely the practical support they need to escape poverty.”
During the consultation phase of the project, the local community placed services for young people high on the agenda, which has led St Vincent’s Ely Bridge to take a different approach to supporting the local community, with many of its services empowering as well as supporting people in need. The new centre will provide parenting classes, an after-school club, a table service café, cooking classes, support for asylum seekers, and the Reaching Out food bank and distribution programme.
The centre will also provide white goods and essential furniture for vulnerable people, and there will be support through Citizens Advice on issues such as benefit applications, debt and rent arrears. The team will also host rehabilitation sessions for people on probation to reduce reoffending.
St Vincent’s Ely Bridge is partnering with established training providers to offer employability courses, and it will house an IT suite to cater for training, benefits claims and other application support.
The opening ceremony will be attended by Mr Drakeford, Archbishop Stack, SVP National President Helen O’Shea, and members of local parish SVP groups, who have been instrumental in the creation of St Vincent’s Ely Bridge.
The SVP has an almost 200-year history of supporting people experiencing any type of poverty irrespective of ideology, faith, ethnicity, age or gender, helping them to restore their dignity and self-worth. During the past 18 months, the SVP has expanded its services to meet the demands of the post-pandemic world, which has seen alarming increases in poverty, debt, loneliness and mental health decline. The volunteering organisation currently has nine St Vincent’s centres across England and Wales, however the SVP plans to expand this to cover every diocese, totalling 22 centres.
Our centres across England and Wales have become the heart of their respective communities, and I’m sure St Vincent’s Ely Bridge will provide a welcoming hub and a sense of belonging for local people. The centre will support struggling families, people who are disadvantaged, and those for whom isolation, for whatever reason, denies them a secure future.
- Helen O’Shea, SVP National President
“The SVP is well known for its acts of kindness, but it’s through these acts that the bonds of community are forged, and the dignity of its people is restored.”
St Vincent’s Ely Bridge is at Mill Road, Ely, Cardiff, CF54AH.