Durham County Council’s Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) awarded grants to two organisations, helping them to collaborate on a project to help County Durham’s deaf residents.

Durham Deafened Support received £920 to reduce isolation amongst its members, from a £100,000 pot which the council has made available to countywide initiatives during the lockdown crisis.

The charity has been using the funding to contact people by post, providing a range of exciting and inspiring activities. The grant will also allow staff and volunteers from the charity to visit members for a ‘garden chat’, with a little help from a local secondary school.

The Garden Chat project will see Durham Deafened Support visiting its members for a talk in the garden or outside people’s houses. However, a lot of its members rely on lip-reading, which cannot be done if visitors are wearing masks.

Framwellgate Moor School are supplying the solution using a £1,197 grant from Durham AAP. The school has been using its facilities to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for local organisations, including full face visors which it is now providing to Durham Deafened Support.

The grant has been allocated from Durham AAP’s share of £1.4million, which the council has made available to the county’s 14 AAPs, to help community and voluntary groups in their area during the lockdown.

Jane Atkinson, from Durham Deafened Support, said: “These visors will make a massive difference to late-deafened and hard of hearing people. They will enable us to do our garden chats, visiting members who lip-read and need to see people’s full face.”

Craig Morgan, area action partnership coordinator for Durham AAP, said: “The social distancing measures introduced have left many of us feeling lonely and isolated, and it can be even more difficult for people who are deaf or hard of hearing who might struggle to use the phone, don’t use a computer or live alone.

“We’re delighted that our AAP has been able to fund Durham Deafened Support and Framwellgate School to help people feel part of a community again during these challenging times.”

Chair of the school’s Trust Board, Cllr Amanda Hopgood, said: “The school was grateful to receive a grant from Durham Area Action Partnership as it has enabled us to keep making vital PPE for local organisations and health care providers. As I am also a member of the AAP Board, I was aware that Durham Deafened Support had also received a grant and when I found out they were struggling I immediately got in touch with them.”

Further information about all 14 of County Durham’s AAPs and the work they are doing in their communities can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/aaps

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