VOLUNTARY groups and small charities across the county have been given a new year boost through vital grants totalling more than £130,000 from Wiltshire Community Foundation.

Many of the community grants awarded by the charity, the county’s largest Wiltshire-based funder, are phased over three years, giving their recipients the security of knowing community projects have guaranteed funding.

Among the recipients of the latest round of community grants is Home-Start Kennet, which has been awarded £15,000 over three years to help fund its support for young families. The charity’s volunteers work with parents, who are often alone and isolated, to offer support and guidance in coping with young children, budgeting, loneliness and anxiety.

Fundraiser Joanne Kent said the grant will help volunteers lend support for families with children under five, referred to the group by health visitors, schools and children’s centres, for six months at a time.

“We fill a gap, namely home visiting support, giving families valuable time to build trusted relationships with a volunteer,” she said. “Being in the home helps identify and address ‘hidden’ needs too, such as a child not having a bed or food vulnerability.

“Home visiting reaches families who are isolated or not accessing other community support services. Being non statutory, we help families who don’t qualify for or are disengaged with statutory support.”

A £15,000 grant over three years to Julia’s House Children’s Hospice in Devizes will help fund its respite+ service for families of children all over the county with life-shortening illnesses. Fundraiser Lisa Holmes said the service, piloted during the pandemic, gives essential support to parents, many of whom are still semi-shielding because their children are unable to have a Covid vaccine because of their condition.

“Often their children miss out on experiences and activities that peers are now returning to,” she said. “This activity allows children to have new experiences in a safe environment with measures the parents trust, allowing the parents full respite.”

Nursing staff provide care for children at home, while a sibling worker spends time with brothers or sisters to give parents some time on their own. Mrs Holmes said the grant will provide 360 sessions a year for up to 25 families.

“The service will reduce isolation and stress not just for children in Wiltshire with life-shortening conditions but also for their families to bring rest, recovery and re-connection,” she said.

Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union has been awarded £5,000 to upgrade its IT to allow it to expand its service across the county. At present it offers low-cost loans to help stop people in debt being drawn to payday loans or loan sharks.

At present it is restricted to working with families in receipt of Child Benefit but new technology will allow it to work with those receiving Universal Credit. It also plans to launch its own debit card and a service to prevent tenants in rent arrears being evicted.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are only able to provide these grants because of the generosity of our donors. They trust us to use their donations to make the greatest impact with causes or places that matter most to them.

“We know the brilliant groups we fund will deliver on that and use the grants to make real improvements to the lives of local people who depend on them.”

The deadline for applications for the next round of Community Grants, which will be awarded in March, is January 28. More details on eligibility and how to apply at wiltshirecf.org.uk.