Formed in 1995 as a Christian community, DCP aimed to establish a network of support for those in need in County Durham. Through effective leadership and partnership working, DCP has grown to incorporate a large number of projects, all responding to different needs.

The first project formed by DCP was the Durham Cathedral Listening Service in 1999. From issues raised and discussed with the Listeners, a new need for support was identified and in 2005 the Grandparents Support Group was established.

The Streetlights project had its first patrol in March 2010 and subsequently Supported with stewarding and crowd control later that year. Their success led them to be asked to help in starting a Streetlights project in South Shields.

With the incorporation of Streetlights and the launch of County Durham Foodbank in 2011, Durham Christian Partnership’s work expanded considerably. Working under the Trussel Trust, Durham’s first foodbank distribution points were opened in Chester le Street, Durham and West Auckland.

This was a big step for DCP, taking the geographical footprint of the organisation outside of the city and providing their services County wide.

2011 also saw introduction of the Effective Listening courses and DCP held various one day events as part of their Learning in Partnership. These events included a ‘Supporting People Affected by Addiction’ workshop in partnership with NECA and Liberty from Addiction and a ‘Supporting People Affected by Dementia’ with the Alzheimer’s Society, Chester le Street Carers Support and the Christian Council of Aging.

Nine new foodbank distribution points opened in 2012, including those in Stanley, Consett, Crook and Dawden. And, after a three year break, Healing on the Streets was revived.

Also this year, two new projects transferred to DCP: the Community Shop, which was open 4 days week, and Durham Money Advice Service. In the following year, DMAC grew, taking on new responsibilities, clients, staff and volunteers and the shop hours increased to be open 5 days a week, thanks to the recruitment of new staff and volunteers.

The ‘Supporting People Affected by…’ events continued throughout 2012 1n 2013 including events on Domestic Abuse, with Derwentise Domestic Abuse Service, and a day on Suicide and Self Harm.

2013 also saw DCP …… partnership working by becoming part of the Advice in County Durham project, a new initiative aimed at bringing together a range of advice organisations making it easier for individuals looking for help and advice and for organisations looking to signpost clients to get the right support.

With the onset of Universal Credit, DMAC also took on learning programmes in financial education, including budgeting coaching and in 2014 opened two new advice centres in Stanley and Consett, expanding their reach further within County Durham. Through their expansive and hard work, DMAC helped clients tackle combined debt of about £3.2 million.

The beginning of 2014 bought a new look for our shop, when it changed its name from ‘Beyond Ourselves’ to ‘DCP Community Shop’ and started opening 6 days a week, thanks to new staff and volunteers.

Brandon foodbank started to provide additional support to clients, debt advice through DMAC, internet access and basic skills training. The vision of DCP running drop in services that provided all round support and advice in one place was coming to fruition.

In April 2015 DCP teamed up with Npower to trial the Fuel Bank project to help tackle the difficult choice people are often faced with: eat or heat. Having fuel vouchers from Npower meant that people could cook, heat their homes and have hot water without going hungry.

In June 2016 DCP was part of the Humanitarian Support Working Group, coordinating donations of household items for Syrian refugee families arriving in the UK, as part of the Durham County Council Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme.

By 2016 the Foodbank had expanded to having 28 distribution points across County Durham and was distributing enough food to feed 16500 people for 3 days.

Durham foodbank moved to larger premises within the City, allowing for a drop-in where people could come for a cuppa, chat and food and receive support with financial issues. The drop in also provided free computer access and internet for people to use.

Due to the success of the Fuel Bank pilot and the greater needs of clients, Npower started a new project where specialist energy advisers were made available in foodbank distribution points to answer questions and help people with fuel issues. Npower began at the Stanley foodbank, increasing their presence to cover more foodbanks across County Durham in 2017.

After celebrating Volunteer Week for first time in 2014, showing our appreciation for all of DCPs volunteers DCP received the Volunteering Kite Mark from Durham Community Action. The Kite Mark is a certificate awarded to organisations that can show how their volunteering programmes endeavour to overcome barriers to volunteering; it recognises the value of recruitment and training of volunteers. Our volunteers are an essential part of DCP, without them we would not be able to provide our services, and Volunteers Week was a way to celebrate their contribution and achievement.

In 2016, for the first time, DCP offered placements and internships to students within our projects to support ministry training and give people the opportunity to become involved with community engagement.

This year also saw the start of an new employability and social inclusion project, Reaching Out Across Durham (ROAD). This was a partnership of different organisations working together, led by Groundworks. DCP became involved, employing financial, employability and digital specialists within the project in 2017.

This was also the year that the Schools Mentoring Project partnered with DCP. School Mentoring is a very successful project providing one to one mentoring and small group work sessions for young people in schools in Durham and Stanley.

In 2018 another new project partnered with DCP – PadB, which stands for ‘Press a Different Button’ – providing individualised support for people with addictions or mental health illness. This project has continued to grow, offering a range of drop-ins and activities open to all.

What does the future hold for Durham Christian Partnership?

DCP hopes to continuing growing its essential support to meet the recognised needs of individuals and communities through its projects and partnership working.