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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Minister hails Cumbrian charity as ‘shining example’

A community charity in Carlisle is a shining example to the rest of the country.

That was the view of a Government minister who paid a visit.

Oliver Letwin, went to see the work of Community Reach Raffles. Formerly known as the Living Well Trust, it has been credited with helping to regenerate the estate over the last decade.

It runs a centre on Shadygrove Road and a shop, which sit opposite each other on the street.

Mr Letwin, who is Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, visited this store, which sells second-hand clothes and other goods, as well as a mother and toddler group meeting in the hall.

He told the News & Star he was impressed by what he had seen.

“I think it is fantastic,” he said.

“These schemes, which come from the bottom up, do an incredible amount to hold communities together.”

He added: “I think this is one of the great examples of schemes like this around Britain.”

Mr Letwin also said there were only a few dozen similar groups in the United Kingdom.

“I think the great thing here is that it started in the part of the city where the issues were greatest and it is continuing. It is not a case of deliver and leave a trail behind.”

Mr Letwin was accompanied by Carlisle MP John Stevenson.

“It is good for ministers to see what work is being done on the ground,” he said. “In Carlisle, community spirit is very much alive.”

Mr Letwin and Mr Stevenson met with Barrie Thomas, the director of Community Reach.

He spoke to them about concerns put to him by residents about issues such as claiming benefits and the change in housing policy, dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

After speaking to Mr Letwin he said: “It was excellent. He was very open and very keen to listen and understand the issues in the area.”

He added: “I think he understood our work; he could see the long-term and short-term benefits.”

One of the mums from the mother and toddler group, 23-year-old Suzanne Campbell – who was there with daughter Darcie McMillan, four – said: “He was great, he listened to what we were saying.”

She added: “I think it is good that he made the effort to come to places like here.”

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