COUNTY residents living in one of the most deprived areas in England will notice a dramatic u-turn in their fortunes when the newest centre for learning in Herefordshire opens its doors this month.

The Women's Royal Voluntary Service has come to the rescue of Hereford's Central Ward to provide it with services for families, children and the elderly, all under one roof.

The ward, which is amongst the 20 per cent most deprived in the country and has no purpose-built facilities for adult and community learning, will welcome the all-embracing centre in Vicarage Road at an open day on May 15.

The innovative centre next to St James' Primary School is currently a three-floor Victorian building which accommodates Hereford Food Services, a day centre for older people and The Fourways Children's Centre.

But the WRVS in collaboration with Herefordshire Lifelong Learning and a range of city organisations, including the school, St James' Church, Herefordshire Primary Care Trust, Herefordshire Council Social Services and Bartonsham and St James' Community Association, have come up with an exciting vision for its future.

They plan to develop and extend the centre to provide opportunities for life long learning as well as information, childcare, citizenship and health and wellbeing.

It will also be a base for a community help scheme and provide a caf where residents can meet for a chat, and a meals service.

The project began in January with the appointment of centre manager Diane Jones and the relocation of Age Concern's resource desk to the building.

In March there was a Herefordshire Lifelong Learning Conference, called 'Learning at the Rural Fringe' with a presentation of developments at 26, Vicarage Road to an 'older and bolder' group.

Organisers have applied for funding from Europe to continue the developments and next spring there will be an application to the Learning and Skills Council to fund an extension.

Meanwhile a series of courses will be launched in collaboration with the Lifelong Learning Partnership that will appeal to everyone.


A food seminar is planned for the summer when improvements will also be made to the building and by the winter there will be a full programme of courses, the caf and a developing community help scheme.

The open day is a chance for people to see projects in action, meet staff, volunteers, users and members of the advisory group.

"We would like to talk to you about our vision for the centre, enriching and fulfilling lives of people who, particularly later in life, may lose their independence without the support, help and opportunities we are offering," said Diane.

For further information about the open day and the WRVS Community Learning Centre phone 01432 273590.