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Blue Monday sees launch of new community project

(Left to right) Deputy Mayoress of South Tyneside Council Lynn Blair, Bishop Sarah, Debt Centre Manager Nikita Carson, Revd Lesley Jones and Director of Communities Together Durham Canon Sheila Bamber

On Monday 17 January – dubbed as ‘Blue Monday’ – a group of churches working together across South Tyneside launched a new community project to tackle loneliness and isolation, household debt as well as offering support around mental health. 

The Right Revd Sarah Clark, Bishop of Jarrow opened and blessed the project which is generously funded by Lord Crewe's Charity as part of its 300th anniversary ‘tercentennial’ celebrations. 

The project, known as ‘Places of Welcome Plus’, forms part of the wider church response to helping individuals and families get back on their feet following Covid and grew out of listening to local people and their concerns and needs at the height of the pandemic.

Bishop Sarah said: “We all know that when life is hard - and life is hard at the moment - one struggle leads to another and anyone can easily feel alone, stuck, not knowing where to turn. 

“‘Places of Welcome’ are safe places to turn to, with people who will welcome everyone who drops in and those who want to be part of the answer. They are a gift to people in South Tyneside made possible by local people seeing what is needed and a local charity, Lord Crewe’s Charity, listening and making a difference through its Tercentennial Grant. It is a pleasure to be part of the launch.”

Help and support will be offered across the borough through a small network of ‘Places of Welcome Plus’ drop-ins which offer a safe place to go, a listening ear and an opportunity to get involved. No money is needed and refreshments are free. Each drop-in is open from 11am - 1pm in the following locations every week:

Mondays: Action Station, Boldon Lane, South Shields, NE34 0LZ

Tuesdays: St. Peter’s Church Centre, York Avenue, Jarrow, NE32 5LP

Wednesdays: St. Simon’s Church, Wenlock Road, Simonside, South Shields, NE34 9BP

Thursdays: St. John the Baptist’s Church Hall, Nairn Street, Jarrow, NE32 4HX

Revd Lesley Jones, Rector of Jarrow and Simonside, said: “With all the uncertainty and isolation many have come to realise just how important it is for us all to work together to support one another. Our partners in Durham Diocese, South Tyneside Churches Together (STCT) and Communities Together Durham, all want to see our communities flourish.”

Bernadette Askins, Chair of STCT said: “Churches Together is very excited about these exciting new opportunities. We will provide training and lots of support so new volunteers can feel confident to get involved.”

Starting in February these drop-ins will allow people to access the Community Money Advice Connect Centre’s ‘Free Help with Debt’ service, and/or meet up with a Mental Health First Aider. 

Nikita Carson, the project’s Debt Centre Manager, said: “I’m really looking forward to working with our volunteer team, organising their training and support, so that together we can help as many people as possible navigate their way through these tough times - which can lead to more debt - and feeling like things are out of control." 

For more information or to register an interest in becoming a volunteer, please call or text Nikita on 07555 406 416 or email 

First published on: 17th January 2022
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