Past Projects

LA7 ESF Community Grants (rounds 1, 2 and 4, 2016-2019)

This project helped to develop the skills needed for finding jobs in the UK through the English Language in the workplace course, IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance) provision on where and how to look for work and access to external training and volunteering.

We worked with 100 individuals and about 25% progressed into paid work or self-employment.

We have made a real difference to the lives of our clients; within LA7 round 4 (2018-2019), there was a 46% increase in English and Maths skills and a 36% in identifying strengths and weaknesses, as well as an 85% increase in knowledge of where to find job opportunities.

We worked with a challenging client group, providing support to refugees, victims of modern slavery and survivors of domestic violence.

ESF/Big Lottery Fund Tyne and Wear BBO (2016 – 2019)

Wise Steps supported people in Tyne and Wear to transform their lives, with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund. The project provided one to one specialist support to those on the pathway to work. Round 1 has now ended and we have recruited a total of 64 individuals.

Our work focused on those from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background, including victims of modern slavery, refugees and economic migrants.

The project ended in April 2019 Out of 64 clients, 24 found paid work and 9 started their own business, this means that about 40% of all clients found paid work. This cohort included refugees and victims of modern slavery. Many have also started volunteering, gained qualifications or started training and courses. Our clients’ financial situation improved by 52% and job-related skills by 30% between the day they started and the day they exited the programme. Basic skills, including English, improved by 29% on average.

In July 2019, we started phase 2 of the project (as we had been re-selected as a partner, following a good level of performance within phase 1). While not many clients have so far left the project, out of the 14 who have left by 07/09/2020, 5 achieved a job outcome.

Police and Crime Commissioners for Northumbria Victims fund. (2018-2019)

We engaged with 35 individuals through 3 community events, focusing on community safety, discrimination and hate crime, exploitation and online safety. We mostly engaged on the Eastern European community in Sunderland and the surrounding area, providing space for two-way conversations between families and individuals, the police and the local authority, highlighting problems and solutions

The project improved the trust and mutual understanding between agencies responsible for the safety and policing and the Eastern European community.

We are focused on the Eastern European community in Sunderland and the surrounding area (but within the Northumbria Police force area), providing space for two-way conversations between families and individuals, the police and the local authority, highlighting problems and solutions

We also provided some individual support to victims of hate crime and referrals to appropriate organisations/support. From our evaluations (which have been answered by 26 of our beneficiaries) we have gathered that:

  • 96% of beneficiaries have reported knowing more about community safety, hate crime and internet safety.
  • 96% of beneficiaries have reported that they are more aware of how police work in the UK and support victims of crime.
  • 96% of beneficiaries feel more confident to report crimes
  • 92% would attend future events
  • From our evaluations, we have found out that beneficiaries have learned new things about policing in the UK such as Internet scams and how to avoid them, how to contact police (101 and 999), how police deal with a hate crime, how to report it and what process it involves. ate services.

Community Connectors 2018 – 2019 – Millfield, Sunderland

Together with Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre and Shiney Row Advice and Resource Project (SHARP), we worked to reduce social isolation, improve social cohesion/intercultural understanding and provide support with Universal Credit and other benefits. Sessions included volunteering, Islamic awareness and what is available in your local area.

This project was delivered through regular drop-ins and engaged over 80 individuals in the target area of Millfield, Sunderland. Over 20 progressed into training, 31 were prepared for Universal Credit and over 51 were involved in social activities

Cleaner Communities 2018 – 2019: Millfield and St Michael’s

In partnership with Groundwork North East & Cumbria and Bluewatch Youth Centre, we have delivered regular clean-ups end educational workshops in Millfield and St Michael’s (Backhouse Park area), Sunderland. ICOS engaged in excess of 200 volunteers, organised over 30 clean-ups, 8 educational workshops and gathered approximately 7.5 tons of refuse.

Approximately 2,700 hours of volunteering were delivered. This project was supported through Sunderland City Council’s East Area Committee.

Reclaim your Backlanes 2018 – 2019: Millfield and St Michael’s

We have been commissioned by Groundwork North East & Cumbria to deliver educational activities and environmental engagement in Millfield and St Michael’s wards, Sunderland. More details to follow.

Healthy Steps and Health 24/7 (October 2017 – April 2019)

Working in partnership with Young Asian Voices and Sunderland Bangladesh Community Centre, as well as the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network Limited which coordinated the project, we provided advice, support, guidance and advocacy to minority ethnic people in the East Area of Sunderland, the North Area of Sunderland and Washington. The project focused on improving health and wellbeing of BME people in the above-mentioned areas through provision of advice and activities. Until April 2019 (when the project ended), ICOS provided individual advice to 83 clients and the recruited 11 volunteers within the project.

It helped to access services such as schools, housing and benefits, as it aimed at providing holistic and coordinated support to individuals in need. Examples of support include school registrations, helping newly arrived migrants to register with a GP practice or apply for the NHS prescription exemption certificate.

Eastern European Support Project (EESP) (2018- 2019)

We provided advice and advocacy, with emphasis on preventing problems/issues from escalating in areas such as contacting public services, finding out about local opportunities, rights at work and community safety. We also helped to fight discrimination and racism.

The project focused on Eastern Europeans living in Sunderland and the surrounding areas but no one is excluded if they live in the North East

Since May, we have started EESP 2 and have already supported almost 100 clients with issues such as access to benefits, jobsearching (including for those who currently have a job) and rights and responsibilities.

The Police Commissioner Fund Tyne and Wear & Northumberland (2016-2017)
The project offered support to: victims of hate crime and domestic violence, focusing on those from Eastern Europe, end enabling victims to:

  1. Victims feel more safe, secure and less socially isolated
  2. Victims are more likely to report hate crime or domestic abuse
  3. Victims have better access to welfare benefits and services (one point of contact)
  4. Victims benefit from and improved financial situation

– we supported 24 victims out of the project target of 20.

This included

-13 Victims of hate crime

-6 Victims of domestic violence (one of them had also been a victim of hate crime)

-5 Other victims with significant needs (victims of modern slavery)

Additionally, we are also worked on checking the extent of hate crime and domestic violence and the effects of it on the Eastern European community.

The Children’s Foundation Newcastle upon Tyne Small Grants (2017)
CH-ESOL- Children’s ESOL (for Health)
25 children have successfully taken part in regular creative language sessions through this project. We engaged with children from a variety of backgrounds.

Through this project ethnic and minority families had an opportunity to improve their much needed and important knowledge about common health issues of their children. The project also helped parents to improve their language and vocabulary skills related to health and wellbeing. Please see more information attached: chesol leaflet 12 page (003)

Northern Powergrid Community Energy Seed Fund- Millfield and Pallion Engagement (2017 – 2018). The grant was channelled by Tyne and Wear Community Foundation.
This project concentrated on targeting residents in the above-mentioned wards, where there was a high incidence of fuel poverty and raising awareness of energy saving.

We run 20 instead information and engagement sessions, including one large community event (as we “converted” for workshops into one larger event in order to ensure economies of scale, this change also enabled us to purchase items such as LED bulbs in order to provide beneficiaries with energy-saving kits, so that we were able to inspire them to make long-lasting changes). This event proved extremely successful and attracted over 40 beneficiaries, including families.

Altogether, the 20 sessions and engaged 83 beneficiaries (total number of individuals, some benefitted from more than one part of the project).

3 Staff members and 2 sessional workers took part in delivering the project. The project engaged 6 volunteers, including 5 community champion.

Additionally, out of 83 beneficiaries, 26 were registered for PRS (Priority Services Register), allowing for easier communication between

Although most of the beneficiaries were clients supported through workshops, we have also provided some one-to-one support to clients.

The project was delivered in partnership with Enviro UK environmental consultancy and St Mark’s Community Association.

East Area Community Connectors: Reducing Social Isolation (2017 – 2018, funded by the East Area Committee, Sunderland City Council).
 This project was instrumental in breaking down barriers between different communities through intercultural engagement and sessions on culture, language and religion of different countries and areas. The session included Ethiopia, Islam, Poland, Slovakia, Taiwan and Italy. There were two events, held in October 2017 (European Day of Languages) and March 2018, altogether bringing over 220 people from different/diverse cultures. The project also encouraged volunteering and social action, engaging a total of 30 volunteers.

Meet Your Neighbour festival (Big Lottery – Celebrate!) Grant 2016 – 2017
The Meet Your Neighbour Festival was a cultural It was a project that enabled local communities to celebrate what contributions migrants from different countries of Eastern Europe have made to the local area while presenting the cultures of the countries they were born in.

While the festival took place over the week of the 22nd to 27th May 2017, we run preparatory workshops and regular Steering Group Meetings between October 2016 and May 2017.

Project benefits/ Outcomes

This project’s aim was to bring people from diverse cultures/backgrounds to celebrate their differences, to improve social cohesion and reduce tension, including social isolation.

At the planning stage, ICOS estimated that 12 volunteers and 500 recipients would benefit.

We have exceeded the above targets with over 1500 individuals visiting the museum exhibition alone and 26 volunteers taking part in the project.

 The project timeline

  • October -November 2016 – forming of the steering group; engagement with local groups, voluntary sector, public agencies, and partner organisations
  • December 2016 – March 2017 –  recruiting volunteers; engagement with community artists and project beneficiaries; development of sessions, including creative writing, painting, photography
  • March-May 2017 – Final developments; sessions completion; festival publicity ready and distributed
  • May 2017 – Festival taking place
  • June 2017 – Post Festival feedback, learning and evaluation activities]

The fine art exhibition took place at the Independent (27-28 Holmeside, Sunderland), with official opening night on the 22nd May 2017, unveiled by Sunderland City of Culture Bid director Rebecca Ball. An approximate number of 60 guests attended on the night. The exhibition was available to public view until Friday, 26th May 2017, with steady number of about 20 visitors per each day.

The Mayor of Sunderland opened the Family Festival Day which took place in Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on the 27th May 2017. Number of visitors attended this event on the day and confirmed by cultural officer of the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens was 1,169.

Following the Family Day, the live music event was held at the Independent at the evening of the 27th May 2017. Approximately 80 visitors and guests attended this event.

Engagement numbers in communities in preparation toward the festival were as follows:

  • Jubilate Community Choir
  • St. Anthony’s  Girls’ Catholic Academy (senior Choir)
  • Hudson Road Primary School (Nursery and Year 5)
  • Pottery workshops at National Glass Centre (15 participants)
  • Other community engagements, including local artists and musicians; Flower Club; Polish Food Shop; University of Sunderland; Student Union; Polish Saturday School; Slovak Embassy London; general public (exact numbers unknown)

Festival Sponsors: Big Lottery Fund; Sunderland City Council; The Embassy of Slovak Republic; Sunderland City of Culture Bid 2021; Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative; Independent; Polish Saturday School; University of Sunderland; Blue Wings Records; local artists: Zagdan Art, A.G. Art, Klaudia Malolepsza, Aneta Halubiec

Meet Your Neighbour Festival resources you can watch/see:

Northern Powergrid Community Energy Small Grant (2016)
Based on 4 themes: generating, reducing, managing and purchasing energy, we delivered 2 workshops per theme, which ended at the end of November 2016. Reaching over 220 people, the workshops included various types of creative activities, environmental events, and formal and informal discussions.

Sunderland City Council, grant for European Day of Languages (24/09/2016)
This project included 5 language taster sessions, celebration of heritage and connection to other cultures and countries, food tasting; music, arts and crafts, presentations, and stalls about different cultures. This was found to be a success through the feedback received from questionnaires completed by those who attended.

Linden Fund at Tyne and Wear Community Foundation (2015-2016)
Working with those both employed and those unemployed, this project was successful as all those who participated progressed in their work situations, whether that meant finding employment, or changing to a better job. We worked with a variety of clients, some of which included victims of modern slavery, providing the best advice we had at hand, and going the extra mile to support those in need.

Mental health awareness work on behalf of Sunderland City Council (East Area Committee), April and May 2015 
Exceeding our target of engaging with 25 members of the BME community, we supported over 35 individuals from the East of Sunderland area on mental wellbeing. This was a successful project due to the positive feedback shown in our preliminary evaluation results. Due to this there is now a Polish football club that takes place every Saturday for those who suffer with mental health.

Northern Powergrid Community Energy (Community Foundation) Small Grants (2015)
Supporting over 70 people, all participants finished the course. This was successful as most of those part of the course came from BME backgrounds, where English was their second (or more) language, and everyone was recruited.

Sport Volunteering and skills- we engaged over 50 young BME people in volunteering and building skills through sports. (August 2012 – August 2013)
The Ready, Steady, Go project was funded through the grant “Sported”.. We exceeded our target of working with 45 people and enabled diverse communities, such as Polish and Bangladeshi to come and work together.

Coalfields Regeneration Trust – Small Grants, 1 year (2012-2013)
Targeting those both employed and unemployed, ICOS supported the BME community in the eligible postcodes to develop their skills through gaining accredited and informal qualifications. Our original target of 40 clients was exceeded by an extra 18 people. 16 clients progressed into volunteering, 15 clients acquired a level 1 qualification, 5 clients acquired a level 2 qualification,
We organised a series of sports activities to commemorate the London 2012 Olympics (June – July 2012)
This project served the purpose of engaging minority and ethnic people in sports activities and through it, improving their well-being. The sessions included Archery, Climbing, Golf and Tennis and were very well attended. More than 30 participants attended overall, which each event attended by an average of 20 people. 5 volunteers gained extra skills through this project. This project was supported by Sunderland City Council through its Sunderland 2012 grant scheme. 22 clients entered an informal English Class, and 12 clients progressed with their employment.
Memories Cafe (2011) 
In partnership with SIDE CIC, we engaged with 15 minority ethnic people through the Memories Cafe project. This project aimed to improve well-being through learning new skills, overcoming cultural barriers, improving self-confidence and developing an interest in creative activities (e.g. creative writing and collage).
Free smoking cessation drop-in (2011 to 2016) 
The aim of this project was to provide advice and support to those who smoked and those who wanted to quit. The sessions were available in English, Polish and Slovak so that we could reach a wider clientele. From start to finish, we successfully gave advice and support to 120 people, which included people from challenging backgrounds and the BME community. We were also the only organisation in Sunderland to provide smoking cessation advice and support for those who cannot leave their house. Moreover, we have exceeded the local average quit rate (48% of our users quit as opposed about 43% averages for Tyne and Wear). We currently provide this service for Sunderland’s and Gateshead’s Public Health associations.
Since June 2010, we have been delivering Information, Advice, Guidance and Advocacy
This is an ongoing project which ICOS has tried hard to succeed in in all areas. Often, we are able to provide the best results and outcomes for our clients, most of which are part of the BME network or are from challenging backgrounds. This project includes:

  • Helping recent arrivals in the UK with a range of issues in written, spoken, and online matters (school admission forms, housing forms) and correspondence
  • Supporting clients access welfare benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credit, and Social Security Tribunal cases
  • Appointments in banks, and the opening of new bank accounts
  • Basic online and computer literacy support, as well as creating emails and online forms
  • Liaising with respective MP’s with regards to issues that cannot be communicated due to language barriers
  • Communicating with HMRC in regards to clients issues
  • Finding and helping to apply for grants and government/local council schemes
  • Providing One Planet Living advice, such as in workshops and one-to-one meetings with the general public and the BME community
  • Helping clients change their energy suppliers and providing energy advice
  • Helping provide advice and guidance to those in the BME network who have suffered from racial abuse of any sort
  • Guiding the minority and ethnic community with their lives in the UK, be it with job applications or finding classes and/or accreditations for them to succeed with living in the North East

We have worked with over 300 individuals, and handled more than 600 cases, many fairly simple matters, but some regarding serious, complex, and formal guidance. ICOS have many success stories, such as in a case where we helped a client win over £4500 in overdue Tax Credit. The client spoke limited English and was on a very low income.

Through our work, we have established links with partner agencies, such as advice providers, Jobcentre Plus, HMRC, and employment agencies. We are an active member of the Economic Inclusion Subgroup of the Regional Migration Forum, hosted by the Association of North Eastern Councils (ANEC). The inclusion part of our work has been the core of what we stand and work for. We have never had direct funding to support this service; however, we have had funding for ICOS’s core costs on the basis that we provided such services. The funders included Sir James Knott Trust and Sherburn Hospital. ICOS is becoming a more and more sustainable organisation.