A new £746,000 community centre in Bradford aimed at boosting health, employment, parenting and building community relationships has opened.

Learning English through singing and building communication skills through Knit and Natter groups are just some of the innovative courses The Millside Centre will offer after securing Big Lottery funding.

The centre is open to absolutely anyone in the city and will focus on tackling unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues, learning English, raising children, health and diet among other key services.

The centre has teamed up with The British Red Cross, Bradford Council, the NHS, Hidden Homeless and Bradford Family Support Network to run the services under one roof and will also employ community workers to hit the streets of the city to bring people through the doors.

Long term aims include seeing up to 300 people a week, breaking down boundaries between different groups of  communities and increasing people’s chances of securing employment. Services are aimed at both men and women.

Christian charity Reach Beyond made the successful bid which has helped transform a derelict floor of a building on Grattan Road into the new centre, and the focus is on service provision for anyone from any walk of life who is in need of help.

Catharine Parker-Littler, Project Manager, said, “This is an ambitious project and something of a first – but it’s our aim to transform lives and even a whole city. Everything we are doing is very carefully thought through, based on local research and hinges around giving people confidence and a sense of responsibility for themselves, their health and their career.

“We hope that by the time centre users leave the building, they’ve gained knowledge that they can practically apply every time, so it’s a completely different approach – helping them help themselves.

“There are so many people out there that need help and support, but either don’t know it is available or are worried about accessing it. That’s what we want to change, and by working with partner agencies, we can have a real impact on the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people in the future.

“It’s also about bringing people together in a safe space and breaking down walls and isolation that can be, in some instances, generations old. The city of Bradford is greatest when its people all come together – the city is on the up, and our project is a cog in that bigger machine.”

The programme of support is aligned to the recent independent Casey review by Dame Louise Casey around opportunity and integration.

Trial sessions at the centre already include Knit and Natter groups which have seen ladies from Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Congo attend .

Learning English through singing is another programme which uses simple, fun songs to form the basis of conversational English with the aim of breaking down communication barriers, isolation and increasing employment opportunities.

For more on the centre, see www.millsidecentre.org

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