The Ashton Centre was conceived as a community initiative in 1985 through a shared drive in the local community. The community-owned Ashton Centre opened in 1991 as a Centre for Enterprise and Community Development serving inner North Belfast, The Centre had been built through grant funding and loans from International Fund for Ireland and Community Economic Regeneration Scheme, as well as the proceeds of the share issue to local residents.
Ashton Community Trust (ACT) is a registered charity engaged in the delivery of projects aimed at social and economic regeneration of the local area. These include employment outreach, education and training, childcare, health and well being, community empowerment, physical regeneration and social economy businesses. Projects are financed through self-generated income as well as direct funding from a variety of statutory and charitable sources.
One of our key priorities is to develop sustainable businesses capable of producing both social and financial profits and thereby contributing to ACT’s mission. Childcare is our main social enterprise and Kinderkids Daycare employs 54 people in three Centres in North Belfast. We have developed five derelict sites across North Belfast and provide services across North Belfast. We also provide complementary therapies through a contract with the Health Trust.
The Trust currently employs over 100 people in some of the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland. It has assets of over £5m and is a major driver for regeneration in the local area. Ashton won the regional Enterprising Britain Award this year and last year won a prestigious BURA Award in 2007 (British Urban Regeneration Award) for best practice in regeneration. It was the first social enterprise to be part of OFMDFM’s Best Practice Scheme. It also has IIP and ISO accreditation.
At a recent Senior Management Team meeting we outlined the main areas in Social enterprise we would be prioritising over the next 12 months. We would be happy to tie the team into one, some or all of these priorities as it is work we will be doing over the next year and outside help and thoughts would be very welcome.
Marketing Plan for Kinderkids - We recently opened our third Childcare Centre and this has taken up most of our existing waiting list. We would like to develop a long-term marketing strategy for the childcare before developing a fourth site.
Domiciliary Care Project - We have been working with the Health Trust and another social enterprise to develop a domiciliary care social enterprise in North Belfast. We are being encouraged to do this and would like to develop and open the business within the next twelve months. It has the potential to create a minimum of 15 jobs.
Complementary Therapies - We are currently contracted to provide complementary therapies on behalf of the Belfast Health Trust with mental health clients. We also provide some life-coaching and counselling. We have carried out some market research with the private sector and feel there is a potential market there. Over the next year we would like to carry out some additional research and hopefully develop a business in this area.
We have a derelict site beside our new Centre. It is very close to the city centre but we do not intend to build on it during the present downturn. One option open to us is to develop the site as a car park in the short-medium term.
Improve website and online presence
Ashton’s overall website needs improved and we need to allow for better interaction with customers, funders and the community.
Paul Roberts, Chief Executive, Ashton Centre
“We're delighted to be working with BT. Their support, coupled with their expertise, will make a valuable and lasting contribution to those involved with the Integrated Services for Children and Young People Programme.
This is an excellent opportunity for the community... This programme will allow people to enter at various levels, from beginners to more advanced.”