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Healing hooves: Urban city horses to help rehabilitate substance misusers

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BIG Innovation
Release date:
10 1 2013

An innovative project to use urban horses to help rehabilitate substance misusers in Swansea and a project to help hundreds of women ex-offenders to settle back into their communities are among the range of projects throughout Wales to share in more than £2.2 million awarded by the Big Lottery Fund today.

Interview, filming and photo opportunities with Big Lottery Fund and project representatives are available on request form the Big Lottery Fund Press Office.

Five projects throughout Wales share in the £2,263,024 awarded through the BIG Innovation programme, which awards grants of between £20,000 and £1 million to specifically support projects that test new ways of tackling emerging and existing social problems (full list at end of release).

With their grant of nearly £795,000 (£793,893), Cyrenians Cymru Cyf plan to provide the Community Horse and Pony Scheme’ (CHAPS), a new community-run equine centre in Swansea which aims to tackle issues around urban horse tethering and abandonment whilst involving and supporting the unemployed, substance misusers and disengaged youth in the community.

Grŵp Gwalia has around 600 homes in the Blaenymaes area of Swansea and has experienced the issue of urban horses impacting both individuals and the wider community. There are also concerns for the animals themselves, particularly in colder weather, when there have been instances of horses dying from exposure. Heroin addiction also increased 180% in the last three years. Both problems have placed an increasing financial strain on the local authority.

To address these problems, CHAPS will house a stable block for 20 horses and will provide six training phases over the three years for over 1,200 vulnerable people, including substance misusers, in the community. The project will deliver accredited and non-accredited courses including a range of horse and woodland management courses and basic life skills. During the second year, the project will also adopt five riding ponies and introduce micro businesses around bee keeping and worm farming.

Highlighting the need for the project, Marketing and Partnerships Coordinator for Cyrenians Cymru, Polly Stone, said: “The project will address urban horse ownership, abandonment and welfare issues whilst using horses to assist in the therapy and rehabilitation of substance misusers, particularly those with heroin addiction. Heroin use and urban horse ownership in Swansea has increased rapidly over the last three years.”

“CHAPS is an innovative way of engaging with people who may not currently access vital services. The long term goal will be to establish a community led stables and riding centre which will also provide opportunities for others to participate in a range of training, outdoor enterprises and activities. Working with a variety of other agencies CHAPS will create a new approach for dealing with problems associated with horse nuisance, community safety, drug use and social exclusion- leading to improved community cohesion and better welfare for both vulnerable people and animals.”
And in a project encompassing the whole of Wales, Gibran UK Ltd will spend their award of £398,795 on assisting around 650 women ex-offenders in Wales to settle back into their communities through peer mentoring, access to new technology and round the clock telephone support. A further 150 ex-offenders will support the project through peer and buddy networks. These will be women ex-offenders who have successfully resettled within their communities.

In May 2012 there were 242 Welsh women in custody and 1,948 Welsh women on probation in Wales. A joint inspection by HMI probation and HMI Prisons found that female offenders or those at risk of offending are a group faced with multiple disadvantages and complex needs. These include mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and being vulnerable to self harm and attempted suicide. The Wales Probation Trust found that transport, no money, a lack of communication channels and childcare are significant issues for Welsh women at risk of reoffending.

Explaining the importance of the project, Gill Hurley, the Managing Director of Gibran UK, said: “The project will enable women ex-offenders to help themselves and tackle the root causes of reoffending. Both the peer mentor and the women ex-offenders will be provided with the temporary loan of a tablet. By providing reduced reoffending interventions via Skype and hand held devices, the project will improve women's sense of well being and combat isolation. This will replace the face to face communication and expense of getting the two individuals together.”

“Research has shown that women want 24 hour support outside of the normal office hours, and that more information is needed when in prison around resettling. It also showed that women really value peer support and require more regular contact.”
“A thorough evaluation will be carried out with findings disseminated to key practitioners and policy makers.”

She added: “We will work with women who do not have active drugs and alcohol problems. These women would otherwise fall through the gap in provision. Women ex-offenders usually have complex needs; some of those needs will have led to them committing offences. Typically, these include debt, housing, relationships; many women will also have experienced abuse. We know that the one to one support together with regular themed group days, encourage women to believe that change is possible”.

Highlighting the importance of the projects funded and urging more groups to apply for funding under the third round, Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee Member and Chair of the BIG Innovation Committee, Graham Benfield, said: “The Big Lottery Fund is committed to bringing about real improvements to communities most in need but recognises that existing ways of meeting need do not always work and that some needs are new with no ways of addressing them. This is why we launched BIG Innovation in Wales. As the projects funded today demonstrate, it can help turn people’s big new ideas into a reality.”

He added: “Our message is simple - if a group or organisation has an innovative new idea for a project which provides new solutions which better address emerging and entrenched social problems- then we definitely want to hear from them.”

The third and final round for applications to the programme will be announced later this year. For further information about the BIG Innovation programme and how you can apply for funding, please visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/wales

Full list of projects:

Gwynedd – 1 Grant worth £465,114

Cyngor ar Bopeth Gwynedd & De Ynys Mon Citizens Advice Bureau


Meeting Advice Needs of Rural Gwynedd

The project will address the imbalance between the provision of advice and information between the most remote and inaccessible communities and more urban areas of Gwynedd. This will be achieved via a mobile unit and digital technology, with a Gateway assessor as a first point of contact.


Swansea – 1 Grant worth £793,893

Cyrenians Cymru Cyf


Community Horses and Pony scheme (CHAPS)

The project will address urban horse ownership, abandonment and welfare issues whilst combining the increase in substance misuse of individuals, particularly heroin in Swansea. An equine centre will be established to cater for tethered horses whilst providing a range of training for horse owners, local residents and substance misusers.



Wales wide – 3 Grants worth £1,004,017



Canolfan Adferiad Hafal’s Recovery Centre

The project, over four years, will research, develop and establish a groundbreaking new independent hospital for people with a serious mental illness in South Wales which will be run by service users for service users.


Gibran UK Ltd


The project will enable 650 women ex-offenders in Wales to help themselves through accessing support designed to tackle the root causes of reoffending. The project will improve women's sense of well being by combating isolation by using visual technology and 24/7 counselling support. A further 150 ex-offenders will support the project through peer and buddy support.


Warren House Group at Dartington





KiVa anti-bullying programme in Wales

The project will implement and evaluate an anti-bullying programme with 7-11 year olds, working with teachers and parents in 20 primary schools across Wales to reduce rates of bullying and victimisation. KiVa is an award winning evidence-based school-wide anti-bullying program developed in Finland. KiVa comprises activities for all pupils in school to prevent and tackle incidents of bullying. The programme includes 10 two-hour monthly lessons for pupils in years 3-6. The lessons include discussion, video films and exercises done in pairs and small groups. They cover topics on a variety of issues related to group interaction and group pressure, the mechanisms and consequences of bullying, different forms of bullying, and especially, what the students can do together in order to counteract bullying and support the victimised peers.


Further Information

Further Information:
Oswyn Hughes - Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 02920 678 207
Out of Hours Contact: 07760 171 431
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030                          
Textphone:  0845 6021 659
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Notes to Editors

• In Wales, the Big Lottery Fund is rolling out around £100,000 a day in Lottery good cause money, which together with other Lottery distributors means that across Wales most people are within a few miles of a Lottery-funded project.
• The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
• Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to Good Causes. As a result, over £28 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants given out across the arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.