A Wrexham-based football club which tackles mental health problems, discrimination and homelessness has received a £2,500 funding boost thanks in part to assets seized from criminals.
Wrexham Inclusion Football Club received the grant as part of a special fund distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
The club, which offers support to people with disabilities, mental health issues, ADHD, autism and also those from ethnic minority or LGBT groups or who have been affected by bullying or homelessness, initially began by using football as a way of helping people to meet and have fun.
However it has since extended into arranging volunteering and adult learning opportunities for its growing band of service users.
More than 50 people aged between 11 – 60 years old train with the club each week, with estimates there will be over 100 active players by the end of the year.
A ‘Build the Bus’ campaign had been launched to help purchase a 17-seater minibus the club – which has been boosted by the £2,500 grant from the Your Community, Your Choice initiative.
Now in its fifth year, the awards scheme has seen much of £160,000 handed out to deserving causes recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The scheme, which is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.
This year there are 14 grants totalling almost £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants from among 35 projects submitted and almost 10,000 votes cast.
At the Your Community, Your Choice presentation ceremony at North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay, the club’s general manager Wayne Greenshields said: “We’ve grown very quickly and we estimate that by the end of this year we’ll have over 100 active players making us the largest community-based football mental health team in the UK and also one of the most successful.
“Every week we support over 50 people aged 11 to 60-plus, giving them a voice and a platform where their previous history will not be judged but where difference and change are celebrated.
“It all started off with football and things have now gone much further into areas such as volunteering where, for instance, we worked on the garden of a local disability centre, and adult learning where we offer language classes and healthy eating courses.
“The club is led by volunteers and we work closely with schools and other local organisations.
“On the football front we drove the players over 17,000 miles to tournaments up and down the country, mostly in the private cars of our volunteers, so receiving the grant from Your Community Your Choice will give us a massive boost.
“We’ll also use the minibus for transport to other events and this money could help us buy a new vehicle instead of a second-hand one.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki, said: “I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across north Wales for a sixth consecutive year.
“I recently launched my Social Value Policy which seeks to expand our support to local communities and ‘Your Community Your Choice’ provides me with an opportunity to do just that.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support and the response showed that communities can work together to make our public places safer.
“I have visited a number of last year’s successful projects and have been extremely impressed with the work done to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.
“Delivering Safer Neighbourhoods is one of my key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and I am delighted that your organisations have developed projects that support this Plan.”
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said the scheme sends a “positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled.”
The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act,” he continued.
“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.
“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.
“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”