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Cooking up a storm thanks to food safety training


Volunteers from a County Durham community project and residents from a sheltered housing scheme are looking forward to cooking up a storm after taking part in a free food safety course.

The training was organised by housing provider Derwentside Homes, which owns the Castle Court independent living scheme in Annfield Plain where the course took place.

Among those taking part were seven Castle Court residents, including 67-year-old Peter Scott who said: "We organise a lot of social events here at Castle Court which we like to cater for so we were really keen to do the training.

"In the past we've held quizzes, games nights, carpet bowls and bingo and because we have a great communal kitchen here we usually provide a proper cooked meal for everyone attending.

"It's fantastic that Derwentside Homes has been able to provide this training for us – it will give us great confidence for future events and it's good to know we've got a formal qualification now."

The training, which was funded by Durham County Council's Adult Learning and Skills Service through the Skills Funding Agency & European Social Fund, is just one of a range of initiatives offered by Derwentside Homes' Brighter Futures project, which aims to support local unemployed people into work or training by offering information and advice and providing opportunities to gain new skills and qualifications.

Eileen Stemp of Consett-based FANE Ltd, who delivered the training, said: "Gaining this qualification will really increase the participants' employability, especially when it comes to looking for work in cafes, restaurants or in the food manufacturing industry.

"Most of these businesses will require their employees to have this qualification so gaining it now will give our trainees the edge when it comes to an interview situation, and give them confidence that they have the right skills for the job."

Two other people who will benefit from gaining the Food Safety in Catering Level 2 certificate are volunteers Elaine Tempest and Nayla Akhtar, who work at Derwentside Homes' community project The Hive, in Catchgate.

The pair run Healthy Hive – a scheme which teaches people about healthy eating and how to cook nutritious meals and using fresh ingredients.

Elaine said: "It's great to be able to get a recognised qualification which will not only help with our volunteer work but is also something we can put on our CVs."

Nayla added: "This training will really help us in the kitchen and we can pass on what we've learnt to the people we work with at The Hive."

Derwentside Homes' Employment Initiatives Officer Michelle Graham, who runs the Brighter Futures project, said: "I've worked with FANE before and knew they had funding to run the food safety course so thought it would be a great opportunity for some of our residents to learn some new skills and gain a qualification.

"Brighter Futures is all about combining practical advice and guidance with plenty of encouragement and support. As much as anything it's about helping people get that sense of purpose and belief back which can often take a knock when you lose your job or are out of work for a long time."