Former council worker gets Off The Bench

An ex-Lincolnshire County Council employee, affected by the public spending cuts, has taken matters into his own hands and formed a community organisation.

Youth worker Pete Genders created non-profit organisation group Off The Bench (OTB) to deliver social services to youngsters that may otherwise be cut by the council.

Off the Bench is backed by the likes of Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, Lincolnshire Co-op, The Showroom and Councillor Allister Williams.

Through the group, young people can try out various projects like Smoothie Bikes, sports sessions, graffiti workshops, interactive gaming sessions and gain qualifications.

Genders used to be a youth worker with Lincolnshire County Council, dealing with the likes of young offenders, travellers and others failed by mainstream education.

However, after having his contract terminated by the council due to the cuts, he pushed on the Off the Bench, and now has created five jobs in the city.

Genders said: “I finished my employment with Lincolnshire County Council on Friday (April 15).

“I saw this coming last year and over the last few months along with several co workers have set up Off The Bench a not for profit community interest company.

“The amazing thing about Off The Bench is that it has been put together by myself and a team of award-winning volunteer workers, a company ran by volunteers to deliver services to young people who LCC are proposing to cut.

“Getting funding was hard but with the support of some fantastic partners such as StreetGames, Princes Trust, Lincolnshire Co-op and Lincolnshire Police we have been able to get the ball rolling.

“Not only is OTB now up and running and situated in The Showroom, I have managed to create five full-time staff positions, one apprentice post and 24 community volunteers delivering sessions.”

Building up support

Councillor Williams said: “Off the Bench Is a great initiative which makes a real impact on young people’s lives from participation to volunteering. I always look forward to working with them.”

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney also recently met with the team of volunteers at Off the Bench and has supported what the community group is doing.

“When I recently met with the Off The Bench volunteers I was immediately impressed with their enthusiasm and passion for helping young people realise their ambitions.

“I know that OTB is looking to continue providing services that, in these very difficult financial circumstances, the local authority are having to cut and so the OTB really is the ‘Big Society’ in action.

“I salute the work of the OTB Team and will continue to remain on hand to help them in any way I can.”

A revolution in the making

Genders believes that more people in his position should set up groups to help their local community.

He said: “I would most definitely recommend that others do the same.

“It’s hard, I won’t pretend it was easy, some tough decisions had to be made and we have all had to put in some long voluntary hours to get to this stage but if you have a dream, a passion and a service that you think can provide help and support to others then go for it.

“Make sure you do some community consultation and that there is a need for you idea.

“Get as many people involved as possible and make sure they are aware that it is a community project that will benefit the whole community.

“Be clear on your aims and visions and above all don’t try to develop something you want, as that’s not what a community group is about. Develop what the community wants, listen to them, work with them, work for them.”

Photo: Kelly Moore for The Lincolnite