Finding out about FACET

FACET is one of Fenland s lesser known charities, having begun life in a small part of its present site at the Marwick Centre in 2001. It took over the whole of the building in 2004. Initial funding came from Cambridgeshire County Council, the Papworth Tr

FACET is one of Fenland's lesser known charities, having begun life in a small part of its present site at the Marwick Centre in 2001. It took over the whole of the building in 2004.

Initial funding came from Cambridgeshire County Council, the Papworth Trust and Speaking Up. Fenland District Council also got on board.

It has 80 students from Fenland with learning and physical disabilities of varying ages from 16 upwards.

On Wednesday FACET will hold an open day for anyone to pop in and see work carried out there. MAGGIE GIBSON sneaked a preview.

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THE first things you notice when you go along to FACET are the happy, smiling faces of students who love spending time there.

It obviously takes special staff and volunteers to make it welcoming because the shabby, drab building is beyond repair.

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The roof leaks, paint is peeling, inside it is like a hothouse during summer and freezing in winter.

I wonder what most parents would think if their youngsters had to go to schools housed in similar accommodation?

On the day I visited some of the woodwork group were off to an exhibition in Warwickshire. They went in cars belonging to staff and volunteers because the minibus has also seen better days.

The minibus is also used to take students out into the community to carry out valuable work for residents and businesses. Project manager Linda Ingrams dreams of being contacted by a business or individual with a minibus no longer needed which they would be prepared to donate.

Other students were busy in the greenhouses tending to the thousands of plants which are sold to raise funds.

The woodwork group also has a thriving business, producing a range of goods including garden furniture, play equipment and bird feeders.

Inside others are waiting eagerly to start their activities which could include cooking, learning computer skills, or art work.

Whatever the problems -- and the list is overwhelming -- those involved with FACET are determined to secure its future in the kind of accommodation the students so richly deserve.

"Life is hard enough for them without having to have a building like this," said chairman of the trustees, Councillor Jan French, on a tour of the building and grounds.

A major priority is to secure a new site in March for the charity, an issue that has been beset with many difficulties.

Mrs Ingrams is busy working on future plans but whatever happens she hopes for support from local people.

"We do two main things here," she said. "We give some students workplace skills and others independent living skills. We make a huge contribution to enable people to move away from residential care, it could be in supported living or living independently."

FACET costs £450,000 a year to run with the biggest share of funding coming from Cambridgeshire county Council.

"We do recognise the very valuable contribution it makes but it is also facing financial constraints," said Mrs Ingrams.

Students pay to attend the centre from their direct payments which they use to access various services and activities. They are charged £27 a day or £13.50 for a half-day session, but different arrangements apply to those with higher support needs.

"We would rather they didn't have to pay but this is the way it now works," said Mrs Ingrams. "We provide a very supportive environment, most of the staffing is tutor or learning support and this is where the money goes."

FACET is asking for support from the business community to help. "We need to raise awareness in the local business community," said Mrs Ingrams. "It could be specific skills such as someone with construction or architectural skills who can help us with the way forward. There is a whole host of ways people could help."

Her thoughts are echoed by Cllr French who added: "We need to know where the future lies for this organisation. It is not fair to the students who come here and we really can't spend another winter here.

* A CHARITY race night in aid of FACET- Fenland Area Community Enterprise Trust - is to be held at the end of July.

The Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard have teamed up with the Oliver Cromwell Hotel and March and Chatteris Lions to stage the race night, and auction, on July 27.

Tickets will cost £10 and include a buffet supper. They will go on sale next week at the Cambs Times office at 51 High Street, March, the Wisbech Standard office at 34 Market Place, Wisbech, the hotel or from the FACET charity shop in Darthill Road, March.

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