Small groups losing out on free support

Voluntary and Community Groups only have until December to apply £2,500 of support.

An outreach worker for Communities Can has expressed major concern that small community groups in Torbay will miss out if they do not act quickly.

The project called Communities Can is a Lottery funded programme, aimed at helping organisations with an annual incomes of less than £10,000.  It has been running for over a year but take up has been very low.

Ken Pickering, Communities Can Outreach Worker said, “Community groups are missing out on thousands of pounds of support and we want to make sure that as many organisations as possible get this help before applications close on 31st December.

Under the scheme groups can get one to one support from local consultants who can, for example, help them to write successful funding applications, help them to look at their organisation and plan for the future, can help groups to measure the impact they are having or could help them to improve their marketing including social media or media training.

All the support is individually geared to the needs of the organisation and groups can choose a consultant from a list of local and national suppliers so that they get the right fit and can get the most out of the experience.

Unlike most applications, the process is really quick and easy.  It will take applicants less than 10 minutes to complete.  Groups must be based in Torbay and are having a positive impact on their local community.  If approved the support can run for up to three months.  All work on the project will end on 31st March 2017.

Groups helped so far include environmental projects, theatre and sports groups, social care providers, disability, youth and play groups.

To apply go to and click on apply.  For more information contact Ken Pickering on 07975587991.


Further information and Case Study

 Communities Can is a 2 year pilot which aims to provide capacity building support to up to 750 small, often informal groups and organisations in 5 key areas in England:

Barking and Dagenham, Blackpool, Peterborough, Sunderland and Torbay.

Communities Can is testing new ways of developing the skills, knowledge and confidence of these groups and the evidence will influence future support packages.

Our focus will be on engagement with individuals and groups with a turnover under £10,000 who currently struggle to access support and funding. We will match them to local, regional and national support providers who will be paid to meet their development needs. Support will be allocated from a £1.2million fund, provided through vouchers at a maximum value of £2,500 which will pay for the support time from the providers.


Torbay Table Tennis Academy, Torbay

The Torbay Table Tennis Academy received help from Communities Can and has found it a real help.  The club was set up 2011 with two coaches who were passionate about getting children and young people involved in table tennis. Since then, the Academy has grown to include three coaches, three assistant coaches and over 50 members of all age categories and abilities, with members ranging from five to 76 years-of-age.  The club has gained Premier Club status from Sport England and “Clubmark” from Table Tennis England.

The Academy runs both social and competitive activities and works closely with schools to providing a range of extra-curricular table tennis activities. It makes a point of never turning away young people.  With many young people from different backgrounds attending the Academy and some young people going on to train as table tennis coaches, the Academy’s social impact is well established.

However, the Academy wanted to broaden its reach and so Anne-Marie Gibbs approached Communities Can for support. The club wanted to be able to reach more people, especially young people from deprived backgrounds who are less likely to get involved in sport.

Communities Can provided the Academy with three days support.  This included looking at how the club was funded, opportunities for the future and engaging with local strategies around physical activity and health.

Anne Marie said, “They carefully listened to and acknowledged our aims for the club and steered us in the right direction to achieve them. A lot of it is trying to get us out there and filling in applications. Communities Can has given us new means and ways of doing that. It was a big learning curve”.

As a result of their support, Torbay Table Tennis Academy has vastly improved its fundraising skills. The Academy recently received £800 funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and £1,500 from the Devon Community Foundation, which will pay for hall hire and help for the “Busy Bees” (5-8 year olds).

The Academy now has further ambitions to increase the reach and scope of its activities, in particular to increase its sessions for five- to eight-year-olds and partner with new schools, and feels well equipped to approach potential new partners

In addition, there are other funding opportunities in the pipeline, which could increase the reach and scope of Torbay Table Tennis Academy’s activities. The Academy now feels well equipped to have discussions and apply for funding.

Anne-Marie is clear on the impact that Communities Can has had on Torbay Table Tennis Academy and unreservedly recommended Communities Can to other groups in need of support: “It’s a bit of a cliché, but groups should go for it and get all the help they can get. Everyone has different advice and you can pick up on things from people that you wouldn’t have thought you could.”


About Ken Pickering

Ken Pickering took early retirement in September 2016 after 15 years of managing Citizens Advice Bureau in Torbay, Bristol and Teignbridge.  He set up Funding Torbay to help small organisations in Torbay and South Devon to access funding from charitable sources including the Lottery and charitable trusts and foundation.  Since its foundation Funding Torbay has helped groups to access £17,533.

After working for CAB it was a real eye opener to see how much the smaller organisations achieve with hardly any resources.  They really are unsung champions within the bay.  But many are really struggling and I was happy to become a provider for Communities. Can.

I was frustrated that so few groups had taken up the opportunity and so applied for the Outreach worker post to help promote the project as widely as possible.

In my view it would be a scandal if we let this opportunity pass us by simply because people did not know about the support which is available.

Contact and application details

Outreach worker:       Ken Pickering

Tel 07975587991 email

Application form:

Torbay Table Tennis Academy: Tel 07752415051