Women’s charity group closes due to grants’ cuts

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A LIFELINE charity that has helped tens of thousands of women has closed, leaving almost 100 people out of work.

The Bridge Women’s Education Centre in Washington, described as a “life-changing” institution, has gone into administration due to cuts in grants.

The voluntary organisation has worked with women in the region for more than 25 years to provide them with education, training, support, employment and volunteering opportunities.

In a letter on behalf of the board of directors, signed by Washington Central Councillor Dianne Snowdon, staff were told the bad news.

The letter stated: “I regret to advise you that the board of directors has concluded that the Bridge Project is not in a position to continue trading and steps are being taken to place the company into administration on Friday 3 August”.

The organisation was set up in 1985 by a small group of women from Washington and grew to form links with City of Sunderland College and received funding from groups including the Big Lottery Fund, Durham and Sunderland Councils, the NHS and the University of Sunderland over the years.

The project supported between 800 and 900 women per week and its success was honoured in the numerous awards it won including an Honorary Fellowship from Sunderland University in 1999 and Associate College status by City of Sunderland College in 2006.

Sheila Davidson, chief executive of the Bridge organisation, who received an MBE for her work with the project in its service to women in Washington, said she was saddened to see the voluntary organisation go into administration.

Sheila said: “Over the last 26 years, Bridge has worked with tens of thousands of local women in Sunderland and Durham, providing vital learning opportunities, health and support services and volunteering initiatives.

“It is with much regret and sadness that the business is now in administration.

“We offer our sincere thanks to all of the funders, partners, colleagues and friends of Bridge who have supported the organisation over the years.”

Sunderland City Council now plans to work with groups from the project to offer an alternative.

Councillor Cecilia Gofton, portfolio holder for responsive services and customer care, said: “We are aware of a number of volunteer-led organisations affected by the situation at Bridge. The council will be working with those groups to explore the possibility of relocation into other venues.

“The city council will provide advice to assist and support the groups becoming sustainable as independent organisations in the longer term.

“If a group would like to discuss their situation please contact John Rostron from the Community Development Service, on 0191 219 3884.”

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