A five-year project funded by the National Lottery in the Borders is nearing an end.
Financial Inclusion Project Borders (FIPB) was funded to the tune of £500,000 by the Lottery’s Community Fund to offer a free and confidential money advice service to local people struggling financially.
It has been spearheaded and run by three local organisations – Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA), Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) and Waverley Housing.
And it has been a big success – helping more than 1000 tenants.
With a small amount left in the funding pot, the partners have decided to bow out with one last hurrah.
They’ve lined up Borders social enterprise firm You Can Cook – run by charismatic executive director Bosco Santimano – to offer a series of cooking on a budget workshops.
The first was held in Duns Volunteer Hall last Thursday, with a host of others lined up for April, May and June (see panel, far right).
With FIPB concluding when the courses end, Marion Rayner, BHA’s senior financial inclusion officer, told us about the project’s many achievements.
She said: “Many of our tenants are some of society’s most vulnerable; people who are struggling to live within their means.
“Wages and benefits are not keeping pace with inflation and many are frequently having to turn to food banks and charities, simply in order to live.
“Over the course of the five-year project we have helped 1129 tenants with a number of issues ranging from budgeting, setting up bank accounts and repayment plans, referrals to food banks and advising on fuel poverty.
“With the introduction of Universal Credit, more recently we’ve helped people set up email addresses for their accounts.
“We have also helped tenants apply for benefit entitlements and secured projected annual gains of more than £2.2 million.”
Sadly, though, more and more Borderers are having to turn to food banks to put food on the table.
And it’s for that reason that FIPB has organised the cooking on a budget workshops which are open to all residents locally – not just tenants of the housing associations.
Workshops will be staged across the Borders, from Cockburnspath and Reston in the east to Hawick and Jedburgh in the west.
Marion said: “Hopefully, with the help of the team from You Can Cook, those attending the sessions will gain confidence in food preparation and learn that cooking can be fun.
“The aim is to show that you don’t have to spend a fortune on ingredients to make tasty, healthy meals.
“FIPB ends in May and we wanted to use the last of the money to help as many people as possible.
“So workshops are being held all over the Borders and are open to everyone.
“We decided on cooking workshops because some of our tenants have attended similar events in the past and really enjoyed them.
“Bosco did a cooking demonstration for BHA five or six years ago and was so charismatic; he really engaged with people.
“People don’t often learn cooking skills from their mums anymore but Bosco and his team are fantastic at showing people how easy it is to cook from scratch.
“You Can Cook does a lot of work in the Borders so it was the perfect partnership.”
Designed for a maximum of 12 people, each session will see Bosco and his team cooking two budget recipes.
Advice on how major supermarkets encourage us to buy what we don’t need and changes we can make to become more food shopping savvy will also be on offer.
And there will be refreshments and goodie bags containing ingredients, recipes and additional information to take home.
Bosco said: “Having a healthy diet is the key and first step to leading a successful life.
“Budgeting and organisational skills will empower participants and give them the tools to compare the cost of ready meals and takeaways to cooking from scratch.
“The cookery sessions will reinforce the ethos that cooking your own food is not only healthy but can also save you money.
“All our workshops encourage learning through active participation which allows everyone involved to learn from each other.
“Our ethos is to motivate communities and individuals to enhance their health and well-being through food.”
Workshops across the Borders
VENUES AND DATES
Foulden Village Hall - Tuesday, April 9, 1pm to 3pm.
Reston Village Hall - Thursday, April 11, 12.30pm to 2.30pm.
Cockburnspath Village Hall - Tuesday, April 30, 1pm to 3pm.
Abbey Row Community Centre, Kelso - Friday, May 3, 11.30am to 1.30pm.
Langlee Community Centre, Galashiels - Tuesday, May 7, 1.30pm to 3.30pm.
St Boswells Village Hall - Thursday, May 16, 1pm to 3pm.
Lauder Public Hall - Tuesday, May 21, 11am to 1pm.
Gordon Village Hall - Tuesday, May 28, 12.30pm to 2.30pm.
Denholm Village Hall - Thursday, May 30, 12.30pm to 2.30pm.
Stow Town Hall - Tuesday, June 4 , 11am to 1pm.
Caddonfoot Village Hall, Clovenfords - Wednesday, June 5, 11am to 1pm.
Walkerburn Village Hall - Tuesday, June 11, 11am to 1pm.
Jedburgh Arts and Community Centre - Wednesday, June 12, 11am to 1pm.
Hawick Town Hall - Thursday, June 20, 11am to 1pm.
Anyone interested in attending any of the above workshops should call 0300 303 9696 to book their place today.