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Lottery funding hope for charity
2:33pm Wednesday 5th September 2012 in Farming
A CHARITY that helps a dale’s farmers has been invited to apply for further funding from the BIG Lottery Fund.
Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (UTASS) was previously awarded £300,077 over three years in 2010.
The last payment will be received in March next year, and after making an initial application, it has now been invited to make a formal bid for further funding.
Diane Spark, UTASS manager, was relieved to get through the first round.
She said: “We rely on attracting funding and donations but there is less money out there and it is getting harder. Trusts and foundations are becoming more critical as to who they give to.
“We had 32 funders last year and the biggest slice was from the BIG Lottery Fund.”
Based in Middleton-in- Teesdale, its core costs amount to £170,000 a year, of which the BIG Lottery payment covered 70 per cent.
Diane is the only full-time worker. There are eight parttime staff, who also do voluntary work, 37 volunteers, and 11 unpaid trustees.
UTASS was formed to give crisis support and advice to the dale’s farmers, their families and the wider agricultural community.
It is now the largest registered charity in the Durham Dales with 1,679 family members from 571 households, including 491 farms.
It offers a 24-hour, sevenday- a-week confidential telephone line for those wanting someone to talk to. Its trained volunteers gave 7,264 hours of service in 2011.
It helps farmers with form filling – where genuine mistakes can lead to hefty penalties and payment deductions.
In 2011, it helped 210 members with single payment applications – with an average payment worth £13,680, it equated to securing £2.87m.
Many others were helped with similarly important forms, including 88 Entry Level and Higher Level schemes which were worth a minimum total of £6.7m over their ten-year duration.
Only a third of farmers in the area have email, so the switch to online records by various agencies and government departments can be a major problem.
UTASS offers agricultural secretarial services to help with that and also runs computer training courses and a lap-top loan service.
UTASS’s reputation, as well as its services, have grown over the years, and Prince Charles is one of its biggest fans. Defra also chose it to run a £147,000 Farmers for the Future scheme which trained nine young people in basic farm skills – each went on to be employed, selfemployed or entered higher agricultural education.
Diane said: “It was a massive success and if we could secure the funding, we would jump at the opportunity to run it again.”
Away from agriculture, it has also become a key meeting place for the dale’s youngsters on four nights a week and operates a minibus service for those in isolated areas of the dale.
UTASS does not charge for its help or advice but welcomes donations. Diane said: “We are local folk trying to help local folk.”
Now UTASS faces an anxious wait to see if the BIG Lottery Fund will offer it further support.
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