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23 Coventry Researchers Graduate from the University of Warwick and Tackle Community Troubles

23 mature students from Coventry are set to graduate from the University of Warwick on Saturday 25th September 2004, at 12 noon in the Mathematics and Statistics Building, Central Campus. The students have just successfully completed groundbreaking projects that are enabling local people to tackle pressing social problems and have a say in how to improve their communities.

The 'Making Our Voices Heard' and 'New Deal for Communities' evaluation projects are enabling local people to help combat community challenges. The researchers on the 'Voices Project' were recruited in the summer of 2003 and have been mapping information on local services and researching some of Coventry's most challenging areas to improve local services and promote better health, education, employment, housing and community safety.

The Wood End, Henley Green, Manor Farm and Deedmore (WEHM) Evaluation has been working with residents since October 2002, and over the past year local residents have received training to undertake research to tackle long standing problems.

The Coventry people, many of whom had few or no formal qualifications, prior to undertaking the course embarked upon the groundbreaking collaborative projects to enable local people to have their voices heard on Coventry's most pressing social issues.

Lay-people are being employed as part-time researchers on University of Warwick accredited training courses, so they can develop their skills and widen their own horizons while identifying the problems Coventry communities face. The projects enable communities to gather information on the needs of people living in problematic areas, so that action can be taken.

Lorraine Skelsey, aged 42, from Wood End in Coventry, who is set to graduate on Saturday, said: 'I have been researching youth provision in Coventry, and I've really enjoyed working on the project. It has empowered me to make a real difference and put something back into the community. The project has also inspired me and given me the confidence to forge a career in urban regeneration and to undertake a 2 2 degree at the University of Warwick, which is especially designed for mature students.'

Mini Bhogal, from the University of Warwick's Sociology Department who, along with Dr Mick Carpenter, oversees the project, said: 'The projects are working to improve the quality of life for people in Coventry. The findings are now being used to identify the need for local activities and services. Problems differ amongst disadvantaged communities and range from drugs and prostitution to a lack of amenities and anti-social behaviour, but local people are now helping to combat these challenges.'

The 'Voices Project' is working with communities in Canley, Hillfields, Longford, North Holbrooks, Stoke Aldermoor, West Radford and Willenhall Wood. Initiated in April 2003 it is funded through Coventry City Partnership and the government's Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF).
For more information contact: Mini Bhogal, Sociology Department, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 523545, Mobile 07876 218109, or Lorraine Skelsey, Mobile: 07742766866, or Jenny Murray, Press Officer, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574255, Mobile: 07876 217740