A handyman service managed by a community group in west Armagh is instilling a sense of civic pride among residents thanks to a funding award of £19,900 from the Housing Executive.
The West Armagh Consortium is an umbrella organisation that oversees a number of small community projects in the Abbey Park, Callanbridge and Downs areas of the city.
It set up An Post Fanach – which means ‘The Occasional Job’ – as a social enterprise in 2016, with the aim of delivering an affordable, reliable handyman service to local householders.
To meet increasing demand and to ensure the long-term success of An Post Fanach, the group recently applied for funding from the Housing Executive’s Social Housing Enterprise programme, which delivers financial support to individuals and groups who are providing a service to residents of Housing Executive areas.
Chairperson of the West Armagh Consortium, Stephen Fields, explained how An Post Fanach got started: “We talked to local pensioners and they told us they had trouble finding a tradesman willing to do small jobs like putting up shelves or power-washing a patio. We realised there was a need to provide the kind of service they needed, at a reasonable price.
“We began running the service on a voluntary basis and now, thanks to the funding from the Housing Executive, we can pay our handyman a wage. We can also purchase tools and cover running costs.
“We are committed to making this a fully sustainable service with profits being reinvested back into the project. In the future, we may also look at training opportunities for anyone who wants to develop their skills.”
Stephen said the response from customers has been very positive: “Many residents in this area, particularly older people, tell us they feel reassured by the handyman doing work in and around their homes, and are also pleased with the affordable rates that are offered.
“We’ve also found that homeowners or tenants who are looking after their homes have a sense of pride in their surroundings, and generally feel more positive about life.
“When our handyman is power-washing someone’s path or driveway, he’s usually asked by other homeowners or tenants can he do theirs, so there’s definitely a feeling of collective pride in the streets and estates.
“The funding means we can continue to develop our service, helping residents feel better about where they live.”
Many projects across Northern Ireland have this year received grants totalling almost £500,000 for a range of social enterprise initiatives including cafés, film and media production, appliance repairs, health and fitness and many more.
Paul Carland, manager of the Housing Executive’s Social Housing Enterprise programme said: “It is clear that the West Armagh Consortium is committed to the long-term sustainability of the service.
“We are delighted to fund social enterprises like this one, as the benefits are felt by homeowners and tenants as well as by the wider community.”