Wigan community hub banks on a major upgrade

A Wigan not-for-profit group helping people with learning disabilities is banking on big expansion plans as it prepares a new hub in a borough town centre.
Skils CIC is moving into the old TSB building on Market Street, Hindley,and transforming it into a community hub. Photo: Neil CrossSkils CIC is moving into the old TSB building on Market Street, Hindley,and transforming it into a community hub. Photo: Neil Cross
Skils CIC is moving into the old TSB building on Market Street, Hindley,and transforming it into a community hub. Photo: Neil Cross

Community interest company (CIC) Skils Hindley has taken over the running of the former TSB branch on Market Street in the middle of Hindley and hopes to move in some time in spring.

The CIC has been running for seven years and provides service users with experience of work environments in enterprises including a hairdressing salon and a print room.

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But the not-for-profit organisation is also looking for more space than its current location at Hindley Business Centre and decided the ex-bank would make a perfect second site.

Manager Sam Broxton said: “We’re running an alternative to the traditional day care for people with learning difficulties and we’re going to be extending that offer in the new building.

“The beauty of the building is that it’s right in the centre of the community, at the heart of everything. We want to link even further with local businesses and people and get them involved in our vision.

“We are just really excited to launch this.”

However, that opening day will be in late April at the earliest as Sam admits there is a lot of work to do to transform somewhere people previously lined up to sort their financial affairs at a formal counter into a bright and vibrant setting for Wiganers with additional needs.

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Fortunately, Skils Hindley is not short of volunteers willing to get stuck into the renovation.

Sam said: “There’s definitely a lot of work to do. A lot of it is cosmetic but we do want to change the layout as well. We’ve designed a layout for the building and we want it to be really fun and colourful because that’s what we are like as an organisation.

“We want to bring that into the bank. A lot of our staff are up for mucking in and volunteering their time. They’ve already offered to get their hands dirty painting and sanding.

“We’ve got a really good, passionate team here and they are equally excited about the new building.”

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The new hub is expected to showcase a bit of everything the CIC does, though Sam admits that for logistical reasons the print room, which offers T-shirts, mugs, bags, hoodies and other objects, will be remaining at the Platt Lane business centre.

Other opportunities offered by Skils Hindley include a hairdressing salon and a workshop which takes old furniture and renovates and restores it.

The CIC continues to create new ideas for its service users at a rate of around one a year and Sam says the extra space in the bank will make this easier.

The most exciting aspect of the new space, though, is the outdoor area, with the practical craft sessions among those which are likely to take place in the open air as long as the weather proves kind.

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Sam said: “That is something we haven’t got currently and we want to create craft hubs and things like that.”

Skils Hindley says its work gives people with learning difficulties experience of a real-life working environment and either gives them the skills needed to thrive in a supported environment or go on into the workplace where they can get a job with a little extra assistance.

It is also hoped the former bank will include a room where the public can see more of this work for themselves.

wSam said: “We want to open our doors to the community to see what we are all about. We’ve had fantastic support over the years and we think being right on Market Street could potentially encourage people to get involvved and make a difference.”

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