Spring  2016

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New venue, new partner for ECI’s Bike Bank

A BIKE workshop to give opportunities and support to people who have been homeless or are long-term unemployed is being launched by Exeter Community Initiatives (ECI) and Julian House on Saturday (April 8).

The social enterprise, based in Market Street, will sell clothing and new bikes as well as refurbished bikes at affordable prices for people on a low income.  It will also offer training in maintenance, retail and IT skills for people who are looking to get back into work.

Carole Pilley, development manager for ECI, said it made sense to team up with Julian House: “This social enterprise will give people the opportunity to learn practical skills in a professional environment and the chance to rebuild their confidence.

“Many services have been cut across the board and that’s for a range of people with learning disabilities or mental health concerns,” she added.

Julian House, which offers homeless outreach and support, has similar ventures in Bath and Bristol and ECI’s Bike Bank has been running for nearly four years.  In addition the Bike Bank has won a Devon Environmental Business Initiative award for its sustainable ethos as it reduces the number of bikes from going to landfill and also employs volunteer mechanics to teach the trainees.

“Through our work we have seen that if you have not had a job for a long time it’s very easy to lose confidence,” said Carole.  “Taking the first step can be very tough.”

Julian House social enterprise area manager Esther Passingham said they hoped the workshop will become a cycling hub where enthusiasts chat, drink coffee and get information on related activities in the region: “We want to be part of the revolution that is taking place in Exeter,” she added.  We want to get even more people cycling.

“We hope that this will be somewhere that’s good for the community and a real asset to the city.

The new Exeter Bike Workshop will continue to use volunteers, with experience of cycle maintenance and the ability to support people who use the service.

Both charities have been running similar ventures separately but decided to combine their expertise in one central location.  If you would like to volunteer to get involved in the venture you can contact lead mechanic Andy Richardson on 07966992085.For more information about referrals for the project contact Carole Pilley on 01392 284280.


GP link helps ease pressure for doctors

ECI has launched a new type of “social prescribing” scheme, using a family support worker, to help relieve the growing pressure on GP’s waiting lists.

The pilot project is believed to be the first of its kind in Devon and may even be unique according to funders, The Pilgrim Trust.  GP Link is designed to address the growing numbers of patients visiting doctors with complex needs.

The support worker will be able to work with the patient to address needs that might require more social than medical support. Sanchia Hylton-Smith (pictured) who will be the first GP Link family support worker, said:

“I think we’re aware that people may be presenting with a number of issues but we want to look at the underlying causes rather than just treat the effects.” She said the first phase would largely focus on mothers facing issues to do with relationships and mental health.

“We would always look at the relationships within the family as that has such an important role,” she added.  The scheme will be trialled for two years in Wonford Green and the Whipton area of Exeter.  Sanchia has previously worked as a teacher and music therapist.

Green teams work to improve Exeter

WELCOME to Stella Cahill who is joining in ECI as a Green Partnership Project Worker.  Stella (pictured above in blue, planting at Anne Close Play Area, Stoke Hill) is aiming is to get people involved in improving streets, parks and neighbourhoods in Exeter.

She said: “There are already lots of groups out there. My job is  trying to find a way to connect  all the groups together and join them all up and so they can share knowledge and everyone can work together.”

Stella is hoping to organise a meeting of all the groups in May at the Co Lab in Exeter. For more information contact her at

Singing helps bring parents together

BECOMING a new mother can sometimes be a lonely experience – especially if English is not your first language.  French-born Alice Meslin had lived in Exeter for nearly ten years but having twins meant a huge lifestyle change.   “I actually found it was quite isolating. I didn’t really go anywhere until the girls were 14 months,” she says.

Alice looked around to see if there was any kind of groups for other new mums in a similar position but finding nothing decided she would start a group herself.

She now runs a group for French-speaking parents, which has members from France, Belgium, Canada and Algeria at ECI’s Flying Start Children’s Centre in Dix’s Field.

“It’s nice for us to meet and for our children to have a chance to speak to others in French,” she said.  “We live in England and so of course our children will speak English but we want them to be able to speak French too.”

It was such a success that when the funding ran out or a music group for international parents and toddlers, she took over the reins of that as well. “We have people who speak Turkish, Mandarin and Moldovan. It’s very varied.” she said. “We sing songs and I encourage people to introduce traditional songs from their country.”

Patience is vital to volunteering.

NICK Postlethwaite may not be a mad road racer nor an expert mechanic but neither are essential requirements to be a volunteer mechanic with the Bike Bank.

Nick says one of the most important qualities is patience, helping the trainees get to grips with bike maintenance.  “I am definitely not an expert but I think part of my role is to have good communication skills,” he said.

The bike bank trainees come from a diverse range of backgrounds and have different needs – many of them have a referral.

“You get to know people you work with quite well,” said Nick (pictured left) who has been a volunteer for the last 18 months.

“Some people have not used tools before so we have to be really careful with them.  Some people are quite open and want to talk, others just want to come in and work on the bikes,” he added.

“That’s what’s great about here—there is no pressure to talk if they don’t want to.”

Nick, a geologist from Heavitree in Exeter, has had a successful career including helping to build an environmental consultancy which eventually employed 50 people, but he now works freelance, specialising in the quarrying sector.

He comes with a broad range of experience of volunteering having worked for the Tear Fund in Kosovo where he managed a project to replace roofs, doors and windows for vulnerable people who had their homes damaged in the fighting. He also works with Transitions and has completed their mentoring course which has also helped him to support the trainee mechanics.

Nick said he thinks it is important to help people who are trying to rebuild their lives though it is becoming increasingly tough to do so.  “Unfortunately I feel society has become harder – I think there is less optimism,” he added.

His current trainee, Sam Bentley (pictured right), decided to self-refer to help him with his work. As a cycle courier he can ride anything up to 30 miles a day and so his bike takes a bit of a hammering. “I just thought it would be a useful skill to have so that I can fix things myself,” he said. “It would be good to come back as a volunteer mechanic one day so I can pass on what I’ve learnt.”

ECI gets top marks for quality.

After much hard work and support by all staff, ECI has been awarded Level 2 PQASSO.  Special thanks to Vicki Carney and Roy Stephenson who worked especially hard to achieve this. PQASSO is a quality mark of achievement. It shows that ECI continues to achieve high standards of performance and compliance in all its areas of work.